Friday, November 19, 2010

Native American Pow Wow, traditions and dance

Wow, it's been a busy week!

Saturday we went to a Native American Pow Wow that was open to the public. There were lots of booth set up with beautiful, hand crafted items. Every thing from pottery to jewelry to clothes to salmon jerky. The best part, however, was the dance! The whole building reverberated with the sounds of the drums and chanting, and men and women were all dressed up in beautiful, intricate traditional clothing. I complimented a young women on her "costume" and was informed that they are not costumes, they are called outfits or regalia. E loved the dancing of course! Some of the dances were performances that we watched and others were open for anyone to come to the dance floor to join them. During the couple's dance, I offered to go be E's partner, but she said "no, I'll find someone else to dance with!" and left me in the bleachers. She found a little boy her age and danced with him for three dances. I wish I had a camera!

When we first got there I spent about 10 minutes just watching the dancing and fighting back tears. I was shocked at how profoundly it affected me. The drums, the chanting and the singing were so primal and expressive that I could just feel the ancient connection through my whole body. I watched an old woman hobble onto the dance floor with her cane and someone holding her hand. She slowly walked around the circle as the younger dancers did everything from a more rhythmic, on-beat walk to perfectly timed, rhythmic yet flowing and graceful spinning and jumping. I could imagine that she had been joining these dances since she was the age of the two and three year olds she was dancing beside that day.

The whole thing left me wishing that I had some kind of culture and tradition to pass on to my kids. I mean, we are beginning to form some meaningful traditions as we celebrate the Biblical holidays and learn about the Hebrew roots of our faith, but it would be nice to have something cultural to pass on as well. I am a full blooded American with the typical Heinz 57 mishmash of nationalities, but nothing to call my own. And really, what culture do Americans have? Fourth of July? How boring.

So I guess I will act in typical American fashion and just steal from other cultures what I don't have. I'm looking for more cultural events to take the kids to, but especially dance since E enjoys that so much.

The experience also reinforced my desire to have a blessing way with this baby. A blessing way is a Navajo tradition to bless the mother and baby before labor, but similar traditions are part of pregnancy in cultures around the world. I'm not interested in everything that the Navajo tradition entails and would like to incorporate a variety of things from different cultures and my own beliefs. Of course it would be important to me that the blessings were prayers to YHVH. The spiritual aspect appeals to me so much more than the materialism of a baby shower ever could.

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