Audience members learned about powwows and other facts about American Indian contributions in history during a National American Indian Heritage Month observance Nov. 26 at Tony Bass Theater.
The month recognizes American Indians for their respect for natural resources and the Earth, having served with valor in our nation’s conflicts and for their many distinct and important contributions to the United States.
The theme for this year’s observance was “Honoring Our Nations: Building Strength Through Understanding.” It was hosted by 2nd Theater Signal Brigade.
Guest speaker Staff Sgt. Gregory Rosebluff, an aviation operations specialist with U.S. Army Europe G3 Aviation, from Muscowpetung Saulteaux First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada, shared his experience participating in powwows as a dancer growing up.
“The powwow is an important part of the way of life for Native Americans,” he said. “A powwow is an amazing celebration, usually three days in length that features drum group singing and the men, women and children dancers from different dance categories that compete to the music.”
Powwows are famous for their pageantry of colors and dance, which have been adapted and changed since their beginnings into a bright, fast and exciting celebration for Native Americans and visitors alike, Rosebluff said.
“Throughout these gatherings, culture and traditions are passed down from generation to generation,” he said.
He went on to describe the powwow setup as a series of large circles. The center circle is the dance arena. And just outside of the dance arena is a larger circle consisting of the drum groups and sitting areas for the dancers, families and spectators. Outside of all these circles are vendor booths for food, music, jewelry and other souvenirs.
Drum groups are an important part of a powwow and come from different tribes from all over North America, with each group having its own special name.
“Growing up in the powwow circle has made a significant impact on my life,” Rosebluff said, describing how he and his family traveled all over the U.S. and Canada to dance.
He told of a number of older family members who were war veterans. As time went on he didn’t see any younger military members participating in powwow grand entry ceremonies.
“It was at this time that I made the decision that at some point in my life I would enlist,” he said. “I wanted to serve as a way to honor my family and our great deceased warrior veterans. In return, by doing so I have also been able to serve our great country. Being a proud Native American and growing up in the powwow circle is what directly contributed to me serving as a Soldier in the United States Army. Being a Native American Army Soldier gives me an even greater pride.”