John Kelleher Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan Iron sat in a folding chair at the stadium in Rocky Boy Friday night waiting for the beginning of the Grand Entry, the formal kickoff of the Rocky Boy Pow-Wow. “This is about family and friends,” she said. “It's about good times. It's about spreading our culture.” She is Apache, her husband is Navaho. They grew up on reservations. Now they live in Fort Collins, Colo., an area where she thinks her children and grandchildren will have more opportunities. However, she is fearful that they will lose touch with their culture. So many weekends during the summer, she packs them up and make the trip to powwows across the country. She is never disappointed in what she sees. Most of her grandchildren are fancy dancers and thoroughly enjoy taking part in the celebrations. "We live in a urban area, so it is important that we let our children and grandchildren take part in dancing," she said. But the education is not limited to the children. "I am learning a lot about other tribes as I support my grandkids," she said. The feeling was shared by most people in the audience at Rocky Boy as they awaited the opening of the powwow. Many area residents were on hand, but others came from Canada, South Dakota and Oklahoma. Sixteen-year-old Gina Hunt of Alberta was in full Native American dress as she sat on the sidelines. She danced as a youngster, but gave it up. Then, when she went to live with her foster parents, Jim and Norma Bishop, she started dancing again. The Bishops think her dancing has helped break her shyness, and Gina said her dancing has helped put her in touch with her Culture. Wilson Roberts lives in Oklahoma, but he spends the summers with his children and 13 grandchildren. They head north and go to powwows throughout the northern states and into Canada. Most of his family dances, he said. He has enjoyed seeing them grow up. And, because he attends so many powwows, he's seen others grow up as well. "I've seen so many of these boys grow into young men," he said. "They all seem like part of the family." He loves sharing stories about the culture of his tribe with Caucasions and with members of other tribes. The crowd waited in fascination as the entry was set to begin. Then the announcer declared that the grand entry was set to start. Veterans, Native Americans who have fought in conflicts from World War II to Iraq, led t h e c e r emo ny c a r r y i n g American, Montanan, Cree and POW/MIA flags. Then, one by one, hundreds of dancers paraded onto the field as native drums provided the music. The 45-minute march culminated with a tribute to the American flag that was carried by a veteran. Native Americans have been patriots since the time of the Revolutionary War, the announcer said, noting that the Iroquois taught Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson ideas about democracy that were then unknown in the European culture.