Just a Pow Wow, or a Powerful Glimpse at Fleeting Innocence?
There have been Pow Wows for as long as I can remember. Growing up in a town that shared all of it's resources with a local First Nations community, there have always been Pow Wows -- elementary school, high school -- every summer it seems there has been drums. When I was younger I suppose that I just took it for granted. Now that I'm older it strikes me lucky we were to grow up where two cultures meet.
We thought we'd offer Zoey a little of that culture, hoping that she'd enjoy it, and struck out for the Kettle and Stoney Point Pow Wow yesterday. In terms of preparing ourselves for the heat and an afternoon spent on some pretty wide open and shadeless Pow Wow grounds we were horrifying parents. In terms of exposing our daughters to something cool and rich with tradition and meaning, we did alright. Zo was stoked. She bounced around, wanted to buy everything from raccoon and fox tails to moccasins, and even joined in on one spot dance (people in attendance offer cash etc...awards for impromptu "spot" dances in which everyone is welcome to participate, full regalia or none, community member or not).
The heat was distracting, but Zoey was, at times, pretty enraptured with the regalia of the dancers, especially the "fancy dancers" and all of the little kids dancing. At first there was lots of Peter Pan talk, but that soon faded to more of a quiet awe...and maybe a little heat stroke. Didn't stop her from dancing though.
And did she ever dance. Once her Mom helped usher her into the larger group, the hesitation faded and this little girl started looking more like a water bug than our daughter. She bounced, and she spun, and she waved her arms and smiled wide, and wider, until she didn't care much about who was dancing around her. It was fun to watch. There were no more Peter Pan references, just a little cultural indulgence and it was sweet. Who cares who's watching, and it doesn't matter if I look like these other kids or not. Makes you wonder when it is, and how we lose that beautiful ignorance and unaffected blindness. Sure she was just dancing but it was pure and unfiltered by race or timidity, or self-consciousness...just dancing.
It's a weird relationship that we have growing up beside this culture, in parallel but separate worlds, sharing many of the same things, except culture. It can be awkward, and sometimes tense, but more often, and I suppose it depends on the individual, just kind of a non-issue save for moments like this. After a decade of working on and off the rez I can one thing...it's a powerfully rich culture when on full display, and a maze of confusing issues and lingering stereotypes and conflicts and pressures. Growing up aboriginal isn't easy, but it sure can be beautiful.