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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Anniversary Blog Fest: Paty Jager


My Summer Powwow Experience
Paty Jager

This summer I made the trek back to the county where I grew up and joined in the celebration of the past, present, and future of the Wallowa Band of Nez Perce in Northeast Oregon.

While growing up in the county the only presence I knew of the tribe was the statue at the head of Wallowa Lake and when the Nez Perce would show up for the Chief Joseph Days rodeo.

The Tamkaliks Celebration is the return of the Wallowa Band to the valley. The celebration is held on land they now own near Wallowa. It is slowly being made into an interpretive center where visitors and the locals can learn about the people who first inhabited the fertile valley raising fast, sure-footed appaloosas and living off the land.

The celebration opened with the entrance of the riders who rode their horses from Umatilla to Wallowa for the event. They rode around the round house and then dismounted. One man led a horse. This symbolized a tribal member who died this past year. After a prayer to the horses, the riders entered the round house and more prayers and thanks were given. I enjoyed the mixture of Christian prayer with prayers said in Nez Perce.

There was a flag ceremony with the American, Canadian, and military flags and feather staffs carried in with the dancers in full costumes following behind.

After the flag ceremony we were all asked to come down and join in the Friendship dance. I joined in along with another writer I met at the event. The friendship dance entailed stepping to the beat of the drum and moving sideways in a large circle. Then the elders peeled off the circle and walked in the opposite direction, shaking hands.

There was a break as they worked on the parachute covering. The strong winds the night before had ripped it in several spots. This gave me a chance to check out the vendors and visit. The craftsmanship of the items for sale surpassed anything you see in stores that proclaim they are selling "Indian" jewelry. I enjoyed a visit with a husband and wife. She was Cherokee and he was Choctaw. They invited me to their powwow in September in Idaho. I'd love to go but doubt I can fit it into my schedule.

The afternoon was filled with dancing and dance competitions. The beat of the drums felt like the heart beat of the earth as the dancers moved to the pulse and language of their ancestors.

Unfortunately the heat, and I believe the meal I had the night before, took a toll on me and I didn't stick around for the adult contests, though I saw some wonderful costumes and individuals I would have liked to see dance. I had a two hour drive back to my daughter's and left to make sure I made it back.

I was invited to come back next year and I've already marked it on my calendar.

If you haven't been to a powwow, I highly recommend you go. It will fill you with a new gratitude for life, nature, and people.

Paty Jager




Twitter: @patyjag


Karen H in NC said...

I've always wanted to visit the Pacific Northwest. Actually, I've always wanted to follow the Lewis & Clark path to the Pacific. Now that would be a trip!

kareninnc at gmail dot com

Ingeborg said...

I have been to several powwows and I recommend them to anyone who has an interest in learning more about the Indians.

Paty Jager said...

Karen, Following Lewis and Clark would be fun and you would meet the Nez Perce just like they did.

Ingeborg, I agree.It is an experience that stimulates in all positive ways.

laura troxel said...

Ive never ben to a POW POW. I have always wanted to go see one.

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Paty - I tried to leave a comment before but for some reason Blogger didn't want to cooperate.

I really enjoyed your post, and the pictures. I've always been fascinated by the Nez Perce, especially because of their development of the beautiful appaloosa horses with their georgeous and distinctive spotted coat patterns.

Thanks for sharing,

Anonymous said...

I can sure tell you're a writer. I loved the visualization I got from this sentence:

"The beat of the drums felt like the heart beat of the earth as the dancers moved to the pulse and language of their ancestors."

Pow wows are amazing. I'm glad you got to go to one.


Jean MP said...

Haven't been to a Pow Wow in years, don't live close to where any would be held now, would love to go to one again. They are amazing.

skpetal at hotmail dot com

Caroline Clemmons said...

Loved this post, Paty. I think you mentioned part of this on your own blog, but reading more about was great. I'd like to go to OK to a pow-wow but we never get around to it. There's even one about an hour from us between Fort Worth and Dallas, but I am not certain how authentic it is.

LisaRayns said...

Sounds like an interesting ceremony. Love your book covers.

Barbara E. said...

When I lived in Orange County, California I attended several powwows and I found them fascinating, inspiring and a lot of fun. I loved seeing the crafts for sale and still use the keychain I bought there 10 years later.

Catherine Lee said...

I have been to a couple of powwows here in NC. They are so joyful and colorful and welcoming. I feel so good whenever I attend one.
catherinelee100 at gmail dot com

Catherine Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paty Jager said...

Laura, it is very inspirational. Thank you for stopping in and commenting.

Lyn, They were before their time in breeding of horses. the appaloosa is one of the most colorful horses and they have stamina.

Danita, Thank you for stopping in and the nice compliment!

Jean MP, What did you like the best? I enjoyed the beautiful regalia even the youngsters wore.

Caroline,Thanks! Yes, this experience was so wonderful I've written about it a couple of times. I bet a powwow in OK would be huge and so many tribes because of how many were transported there from all over the country.

Lisa, Thank you! My publisher did the cover art on the Spirit book and my daughter did the cover art for Mayan Moon.

Barbara E. I agree! There were so many wonderful crafts for sale and authentic Indian made crafts not wanna be's.

Paty Jager said...

Katherine, they are colorful and joyful. I'm definitely putting them on my schedule from now on.

Debby said...

Incredible! I experienced something similar here in Connecticut. Hard to believe!
debby236 at gmail dot com

Susan Jaymes said...

I envy you. I would have loved to have seen that. I've never been to a pow wow but would love to see one someday. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Paty Jager said...

Debby, It is a wonderful thing to be part of. What was the tribe in Connecticut?

Susan, You can go on online and google the tribes closest to you and should get a website that will tell you the Powwows for those tribes. You're welcome!