Pow-Wow Boys get all the girls 1-07

by Arigon Starr
News From Indian Country

If Pow-Wow Boys
get all the girls
Then Pow-Wow Girls
must rule the world
With fire in your eyes
You’ll be snaggin’!

From “Snagging” by Arigon Starr

“Snagging” was written by the best songwriter in the whole world. I have also written other songs. AAAY! You can find this track on my CD Wind-Up available on Amazon.com, CDBaby.com and Apple I-Tunes.

Pow-Wow season has begun. Everywhere you look are cars with Indian bumper stickers riding low to the ground, filled with kids, grandmas and/or Junior Frybread-sized traditional singers and their regalia, camping gear, pow-wow chairs and drums. They’re headed for Arizona, California, Tennessee, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington, Oklahoma – every part of Indian Country. Some are head dancers, singers, arena directors or crazy musicians like me, hoping to catch up with family, sell a few CDs, and then share songs, stories and lots of laughter.

Summertime has me in a Pow-Wow state of mind. Ever since I was a young girl who marveled at the dancers and drums at Mohawk Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I have enjoyed these traditional social gatherings. As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, my Kickapoo father Kenneth Wahpecome was a Navy man and we moved all over the United States and overseas while growing up.

Pow-Wows weren’t always a part of my life. When my father was stationed as the Navy Recruiter in Gallup, New Mexico, our family finally got a good sample of dancing at the annual Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial. Thousands of people gathered to see the nightly dances from the Navajo, Zuni, Pueblo and Hopi in addition to some high-flying Toltec Pole Dancers. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a guy playing a pan flute sitting on top of a huge pole while his dancing pals swing from ropes attached to the same post.

My mother Ruth Cornell Wahpecome (she’s the Creek side of my tribal equation) shared her Pow-Wow memories on our recent trip back to Oklahoma for the Cornell Family reunion held this year at the Many Springs Indian Church near Holdenville, Oklahoma. She remembered attending Ed Mack’s Pow-Wow near Shawnee, Oklahoma, and recounted a humorous story about my father and some friends heading south to Anadarko for a Pow-Wow many years ago. “He made it all the way to the grounds where he learned there was a charge to get in. He said, ‘You’re charging money to see Indians like me? No way!’ He turned around and came right back to Shawnee.” Knowing how ornery my Dad was, I can easily see his mixed look of scorn and laughter. My Dad always thought if you’d seen one Pow-Wow, you’d seen them all.

Luckily, we agreed to disagree on that point.

The last Pow-Wow my Dad attended was the Mother’s Day Pow-Wow held at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Despite the heat and the poor accessibility for my Dad’s wheelchair, the singing and dancing were fantastic. Note to Pow-Wow organizers across the United States – please make sure your events are accessible to elders and others who rely on wheelchairs, walkers or canes. It was tough pushing my Dad’s wheelchair over the rough grounds. Even though he grumbled a bit, I know he enjoyed himself anyway!

I’ll be remembering my Dad, my uncle Gene Alford (a gourd dancer), my grandparents and my Pow-Wow friends as I hit the trail this summer. There is a feeling of peace and centeredness that comes over me as I sit in the shade of a friend’s tarp as the drums and singers drone in the background. When things get too peaceful, the latest gossip is always available for the asking. If I’m fortunate, I’ll get to hear some new and favorite jokes from announcers like Randy Edmonds, Sammy Tonkei White or Dale Old Horn.

You’ll probably see me at the Southern California Indian Center’s Pow-Wow in July and definitely at the Ponca Pow-Wow in Oklahoma in August. Wherever the Pow-Wow trail leads you, I wish you safe travels, a short frybread line and a carload of cherished memories.