A cultural celebration

105th annual Powwow now in progress

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ
Saturday afternoon, hundreds of people came to the Meskwaki Settlement to watch traditional dancing at the 105th annual Powwow. Pictured is a showcase of youth talent.

TAMA- Traditional song and dance, food and friendship marked the 105th annual Meskwaki Settlement Powwow. Native peoples from all over the United States came to show solidarity with the Meskwaki tribe, including participating in the Friendship Dance.

Saturday afternoon and evening, attendees were treated to dances including the Swan, Harvest or Bean, Buffalo Head, Pipe, Shawnee, Shield and more.

“It’s our tradition and I like to help out (with the dances). I mostly dance in this one, but I used to travel to other places around the country,” resident Verlyn Keahna said. “We’re trying to teach the kids about the powwow experience.”

Spring 2019 marked 111 years since all the land that was held by the Meskwaki people was transferred from a state to a federal trust title when the U.S. Secretary of the Interior took on the role of trustee for tribal lands – a position previously held by the governor of the State of Iowa. Today, more than 1,000 people reside on the Settlement. The Meskwaki tribal people, also known as Mesquakie, are of Algonquian heritage, originating in the Eastern Woodland Culture areas of North America. Its language is similar to Sauk and Kickapoo. The regions in which the tribe inhabited include the St. Lawrence River Valley, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Iowa.

“I was raised to want to participate in the Powwow. My grandmother taught me everything – how to dance. She’s made some of my outfits. We live in Nevada now but we try to come back every year for this,” Misty Youngbear said.

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ
The colorful, traditional dress of men and women has been passed down from generation to generation.

Attendees often stop dancers to ask about their elaborate regalia, sometimes asking to pose for photographs.

The Women’s Shawl or Fancy dance shows off their beautiful shawls, which are symbolic of the beating of birds’ wings or butterflies emerging from a cocoon. Rolled pieces of metal attached to ladies’ dresses add a jingly sound to their movement. Many dresses and vests are beaded, featuring every hue in the rainbow, and are made by elders or relatives.

The Powwow continues Sunday. Dances are livestreamed online.

To learn more, visit www.meskwakipowwow.com.