Books 1983 Omaha Harvest Celebration Pow-Wow Fieldnotes by Dorothy Sara Lee
We wandered back to the arena in time for the Gourd Dance preceding the evening Grand Entry, and I sat with Roger, Ann, and John in the stands, rising occasionally to take photos. Gayle Cable introduced the Gourd Dance and was one of the few (perhaps a total of eight) dancers for it. The movements were similar to the walking step of the honoring dance: the dancers, wearing blue and red pow-wow shirts (men) or blue and red straight rectangular dance shawls (men and women) over ordinary clothes (around 2 feet long, draped around the neck and upper shoulders) were sitting on benches around the rim of the arena, and they stood up when the first drumbeats started. The men danced toward the singers at the center of the dance ground, and then stood facing the singers, dancing in place (flexing and straightening the knees) as the drumbeats increased in intensity—the women dance in place throughout the entire song. Also during this stationary dancing, the men carrying eagle feathers raised them slightly to about chin-level and shook them in rhythm towards the singers. They went back to their seats after each song, while the drummers continued a soft, steady drumming between dances.
This was my first reservation pow-wow (I had attended urban events in Minneapolis) and there was a great deal to take in. Although many people sat and watched from the stands, this was not strictly a spectator event. There were many layers of activity, many ways it seemed of looking at the organization of time and space within the event, many different kinds of activities going on both within and outside the arena. Most of the attention was focussed on the dancers; as I recall, there were no contest dances this evening but rather general dances or intertribals, specials (given in honor of a particular individual), a performance by the San Juan Indian Youth Dancers [see program], and an Oklahoma two-step. But there were also several small intersecting universes of activity and interaction on the periphery of the dance ground: young boys hawking soda and candy; the faint but unmistakable sound of rock music coming from radios and cassette players; movement to and from the concessions; parents dressing young dancers in contest costume.
The Grand Entry was spectacular but a bit overwhelming—too much to see and understand. The Whipman—David Blackbird—was the first dancer. He entered carrying a flag, and was followed by four ‘Tail Dancers’, then men and boy's traditional dancers, men and boy's fancy dancers, the Pow-wow Princess, women and girl's traditional dancers, and women and girl's fancy dancers. Although there were no contest dances, all costumed dancers displayed contest numbers on the front or back of their outfits. A cluster of dances followed, danced by individuals or groups, which were apparently intended to highlight the talents of and generally introduce dancers with specific functions in the event, such as the Whipman and the Tail Dancers. Mr. Wolfe gave a running commentary throughout in an effort to explain the various