Sep 22, 2013

Mankato Powwow

Yesterday we did something we've always wanted to do:  attend a real, live Native American Powwow.   The proper name is actually Wacipi (wa-chee-pee), which means 'dancers' in the Dakota language.  It was neat to learn that a powwow is simply a large community gathering of different tribes meeting once a year to dance and renew old friendships.  It's pretty much a celebration of community. 

This particular one is significant because it occurs on the anniversary of the largest mass execution in US history.  In Mankato,  over 150 years ago, 38 Dakota were hanged.  The history behind this is fascinating and goes mostly untold.  I only learned about it last year.  

It was humbling being the minority in the crowd.  I was amazed that they opened up this deeply personal, special event to out-siders such as us.   I was saddened by the obvious signs of poverty.  I admired the beautiful art work that they have kept alive along with their history amidst many cultural challenges.  Lastly, I was impressed that there were no words of bitterness directed towards the whites. I don't think I would have acted so honorably having received such a short end of the stick.

Also surprising to me was the fact that as a people, the Native Americans are very patriotic.  The Grand Entry began with a procession of flags and men in uniform who served in several different wars.

I saw this guy dancing in the ring the whole time.  He was rather intimidating looking.  I was too scared to take his picture so I paid our neighbor girl (who joined us on our expedition) to take it for me.  We were supposed to ask each dancer permission to take their picture. But I just couldn't bring myself to ask this gentleman for permission.  If he said "no", how do you recover from that?  I knew he wouldn't say no to a young girl.



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