I had been looking forward to Northa American Indian Day’s since teaching my class at MSU. The weekend did not disappoint. I will say that much of it had to do with just being up in that part of the world and around people who are wild at heart. I truly love it. It also helps to understand a few things about Native American culture, as well as other cultures in that part of the world. Life is different up there. But ultimately, it’s all relative to where you come from. That’s why I love images. They are not right or wrong. The just are.
Origins of North American Indian Days on the Blackfeet
I asked Walter, Department Head of Native American Studies at MSU, if he could recommend any sources on the origins of the Blackfeet Indian Days. There is a lot of conflicting information out there, particularly when it comes to Indian history. He forwarded me two options, complete with different decades of origin and told me to go with the following: Earl Old Person, Chief and former Blackfeet tribal chairman, who is cited in a book by Clark Wissler and Alice Beck Kehoe, (Amskapi Pikuni: The Blackfeet People).
“For those who were left home on the reservation, the traditional ways were quickly becoming a thing of the past. The practice of traditional social gatherings and dances was gone. The first commercialized “pow-wow” on the Blackfeet reservation was held in 1952. It was started by a local man who had attended a gathering in Wyoming known as the All American Indian Days. The reason for All American Indian Days in Sheridan, Wyoming, was to promote improved relations between Indians and non-Indians. … Picking up on the idea, the businessman remembered by Chief Old Person only as “Pat” approached the Tribal Business Council with the idea of replicating the All American Indians Days here in Browning. The idea was embraced by both the city businesses and the Tribal Council. The result was the first North American Indian Days, held in July 1953. From that time on, Indian Days was held on the second Thursday of every July.” Pp. 111-178.
Walter Flemming (Dept. Head) deserves a sidenote. I have never met a Department Head, or even a professor, as approachable, humble, available, respectable, kind, wise, humorous, grounded and just an all-around a good solid person. I had to ask him for a letter of reference as it looks like we will be moving. He gave me an amazing reference and the last sentence of the letter was “I remain…” This phrase struck me multiple times that day. I didn’t understand it at first. Then I thought about what that might mean coming from a Crow Indian, as I believe that is what Walter mostly is.
I remain…, I remain here in a place where people of my culture struggle to survive and die at rates that far surpass any other group in the United States though most people don’t know this, I remain with the DNA of people who survived genocide, I remain a pillar and bridge of culture, I remain a rock to those around me, I remain an invaluable educator at MSU while others shift around me, I remain myself as I dodge mixed and confusing judgments from those around me who don’t understand. It could mean so many things. Walter’s “I remain” is the most powerful statement I have heard in a very long time. Though I don’t think Walter would say any of these things as he is far more humble and careful with his words.
Powwow Images Below
Below are some images I got from North American Indian Day’s on the Blackfeet this year (2018). The first few are from a powwow. I love the drum circles. There is so much energy put into the circle and received from the circle. Their forearms must ache and their ears must ring the entire day. I love that this tradition is passed down among generations and that the songs hold meanings that I would guess are often impossible to describe in English. This is an amazing way to protect their culture and experience the value in it. This practice takes dedication and commitment and based on what I have seen adds great depth to participants lives. I also love the multigenerational aspect of these circles, you have young, old, and everyone in between. An amazing way to release and enhance your inner warrior while preserving culture.
I also love the regalia. It is simply amazing. The artistry and patience, as well as creativity and dedication are mind-boggling.
Beyond the Powwow are the rodeo events. It’s pretty similar to a cowboy rodeo with the addition of one amazing event. The Relay Race. In this race the riders ride bareback in a full-speed race around a large racetrack. After completing one lap the rider switches horses while they are moving. It is truly awe-inspiring. Not surprisingly someone gets hurt every year. A horse broke it’s neck and died from falling in the race this year. The rider was rushed to the hospital.
The area surrounding the events of Indian Days is full of people, cars, campers, Tipi’s and tents. Everyone camps out for the weekend. I was thankful that my husband was maneuvering our Airstream as I don’t think I would have been able to get us out!