Cody, Wyoming (PRWEB) June 06, 2012
Powwow preserves tradition for future generations while promoting cultural exchange
As the prestigious Plains Indian Museum Powwow in Cody, Wyoming approaches its 31st year, long time participants reflect on the meaning of the Powwow, both as a way of preserving Native American traditions as well as a way of sharing those traditions with others. The Plains Indian Museum Powwow is unique from other Powwows for several reasons. Most symbolically, the hosting institution, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, houses Native American artifacts and history, as well as non-Indian artifacts, which relate the story of the West and the natural history of Yellowstone and Cody’s surroundings. This melding of cultures and ideas is mirrored by the inclusivity of the Powwow, its participants, and its audience.
Corky Old Horn, who has participated in the Powwow in a variety of roles for the past 20 years, shares his thoughts on the value of the Powwow and briefly laments the detrimental effects of globalization on traditional languages and belief systems. Old Horn and his family have been instrumental in the growth of the Powwow since its beginnings on the Cody High School Football Field in 1982, and this month Old Horn fills the position of emcee. In that role, he must strike a careful balance: conveying tradition and history for visitors without lessening the authenticity of the Powwow for those participating—as it is a competition.
Old Horn believes that, for the most part, the Powwow is a good thing; he says, “This is especially true for the young people who can tie beliefs and cultural ways to something they enjoy.” The sad aspect, he says, is that, “for many, the Powwow is their only tie to their Native American heritage…language and traditions are being lost and nothing can replace that.”
Adeline Fox, a teacher at St. Labre Indian School in Ashland, Montana, which serves Crow and Northern Cheyenne students, witnesses the assault of technology and text messaging on tradition and culture daily. She has not, however, lost hope that Powwow and traditional Native life will survive and thrive for generations to come. Fox, age 66, comes from a very traditional family and has been dancing for as long as she can remember; she has attended the Plains Indian Museum Powwow for at least 25 years and now brings her grandchildren.
When asked how she perceives the overlap of technology and Native American life, Fox responds, “I don’t know; I think some of our people get distracted a lot and get carried away with their new technology and families don’t learn to interact. It distracts from our tradition and tribal ways. They don’t want to learn traditions; they want to text. The technology—it talks to them, and so when you talk them, they don’t hear you.”
Fox adds, “Ours is an oral tradition, and this is counteracting that.” Although Fox believes that Powwow is an important and positive contributing factor in handing down tradition, she explains, “Home life and family traditions play a bigger role in respect for tradition than Powwow—each [family and tribe] has their own way of doing things. We all come together and share those things with each other, recognize each other, and teach respect.”
Despite the widely held belief that texting and hip-hop music could contribute to the downfall of future generations—of both Native American and non-Indian teenagers alike, Gary Goggles, long time Powwow participant and the head judge of this year’s competition, has a very different take on technology. As he puts it, “With a cell phone and Facebook everything is instantaneous; so even from a Powwow you can instantly send a picture and say, ’Hey, I’m here enjoying myself and learning about my heritage.’ You can say a lot of good things with social media.”
Goggles believes that the Powwow teaches not only about Native American culture, but also about camaraderie and compromise, concepts that benefit all people. “They [visitors] come to Powwow and see the camaraderie among different tribes and the relationships that are made and the goodwill that exists among people…people in general; they see how to get along—even with tribes that hold different beliefs. That’s the way that Indian people have gotten along through the years, it’s always been that.”
Discussion of tradition and customs versus the unstoppable force of technology is an age-old debate, and only time will tell how it eventually plays out. One thing is certain, though, the Plains Indian Museum Powwow continues to be a unique event which encourages cultural exchange, promotes universal understanding, and provides a jumping-off point for conversations about the evolution of tradition and the importance of remembering one’s heritage.
For a schedule of events and to learn more about powwow, visit our website.
Committed to connecting people with the Spirit of the American West, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center weaves the varied threads of the western experience—history and myth, art and Native culture, firearms technology and Yellowstone natural history—into the rich panorama that is the American West. The Center, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is now operating its summer schedule, open daily 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. For general information, visit http://www.bbhc.org, or call 307.587.4771. The 2012 Plains Indian Museum Powwow is generously sponsored in part by Choice Aviation of Cody and the Wyoming Arts Council.