North American Indian Days
Jul 13, 2008
|This morning we attended the 8:30 service at Northridge Lutheran Church in Kalispell MT. It was the first Lutheran service we’ve attended during the sabbatical that was pretty much “by the book” (the “blue hymnal,” in this case). We chatted for a while after the service with Pastor Andy, the associate pastor; the senior pastor is currently on sabbatical.
After leaving Kalispell, we passed through Glacier NP. It was a beautiful day to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Highway, but about a million other people had the same idea. It was just too much for us, after so many weeks in comparative solitude! We were glad to leave Glacier NP behind us.
East of Glacier is the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and as we pulled into the town of Browning MT, we noticed that something was going on at the local fairgrounds. A woman at the Blackfeet Information Center told us that it was North American Indian Days, an intertribal (but mostly Blackfeet) gathering (“powwow”) that has been going on since 1952. She invited us to attend, and especially recommended the Grand Entry, which would take place early in the evening.
We looked in at the nearby Museum of the Plains Indian (full of amazing examples of Native American art), then went to the powwow. They had half a dozen carnival rides (a first this year); lots of vendors selling lemonade, t-shirts, and Indian Rap CDs; and a rodeo. But we could hear the main activities taking place in a small arena.
As soon as we entered the arena, we were spotted by a young man named Russell who identified himself as the arena announcer. He interviewed us briefly, for the benefit of everyone in the stands. It was quite a welcome!
Then we settled in to watch the dancing. Various dance groups were competing in different categories, such as “teen male traditional.” The music was provided by half a dozen drum teams, who were set up around the performance area; they took turns playing their drums and singing, so the dancers apparently didn’t know what music they’d be dancing to until the drum team started in.
It was hot, but we were able to stand in the shade of the stands and watch the dancers performing in the sun. Everyone put out a great effort.
After a break, it was time for the Grand Entry, the final entrance of all the dancers and dignitaries who’ve been part of the 4-day event. The Grand Entry was lead by a group of military veterans, who appear to be honored as the modern day version of the Native American “warriors” of old. Another dignitary was the young woman who had been chosen “Queen” of the Blackfeet Nation for this year (kind of a “Miss America” honor, we gathered). The announcer introduced her as a “Blue Devil,” which we assumed was her clan. But when she spoke, she said, “I’ll be a junior this fall at Duke University.” Oh, THAT kind of Blue Devil!
When the Grand Entry was in full swing, it was a powerful event, with all the drum teams playing at once, and all ages represented in the dance ring. Fortunately, Nadine caught some of it on video.
It was about 7:30 when we left the powwow, and we headed east, on a wonderful highway through the prairies. We found some cowboy music and poetry on our XM radio and the miles flew by. As dusk fell, we pulled down a dirt road to an informal campground at the Willow Creek Recreation Area, run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). We had a lovely, solitary campsite on the lake, where we could watch the moon’s reflection on the water. It was a great day in “Big Sky Country.”