Havre Daily News
Dancers, drummers, singers and spectators will gather in a sacred ceremony at Montana State University-Northern this weekend to honor each other and pray for the safety of a soldier who will soon return to Iraq.
The annual Sweetgrass Society Powwow returns to the MSU-N gym Friday and Saturday. Sweetgrass Society community representative Elaine Healy said the powwow is “a celebration of the circle of life with no beginning or end.”
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mitchelene Big Man of the Crow Indian Reservation will be the special guest this year, she added. Dancers will honor her and others and pray for her safety for when she returns to Iraq. The ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday with a grand entry. Another grand entry will be held at noon on Saturday.
“You don't want to miss the grand entry because that is really spectacular,” Healy said. “It's really cool to watch everything.”
Admission is free.
Dancers and spectators come from all over the United States and Canada, Healy said. She added that the drummers are also crucial.
“The drum is the heart of the powwow and we appreciated all drums that come here,” she said Friday. “The powwow is also a place where people come to visit their friends and meet new ones.”
Healy said powwow dances are divided into two types. Intertribal dances involve all dance styles, ages, ethnic groups and genders. She added that this type of dancing doesn't require regalia. Competitive dancing requires contestants to be dressed in dancing regalia, and the competitors are judged by skill in movement, following the beat and footwork, she said. Prize money for the winners, she said, will be determined from what the club has at the end of the year.
Big Man has been in the army for 18 years, and this is her second tour of Iraq. Big Man teaches others about her heritage, a press release said. She performed a jingle dress dance before her unit and explained the dance's story, it said.
Aside from the jingle dress dance, Big Man also performs the Smoke Dance and the Crow Hop. Big Man's children also dance, the release said.
Her daughter, Tia, won a jingle dress dance championship in 2000 in Washington, D.C., and her son, Marcus, has won awards as a grass dancer.
Pam Rosette Austin founded the Sweetgrass Society, Healy said. Austin chose the name as a way of uniting all tribes at MSU-N. Many tribes consider sweetgrass to be sacred, and all use it in various tribal ceremonies, she added.
Students involved in Sweetgrass Society sponsor several fundraising events in order to hold the powwow, Healy said. The members' tribes and local businesses also generously support the club, she added.