Powwow season has special kickoff
The Sweetgrass Society at Montana State University-Northern is kicking off Montana's powwow season on Saturday, in conjunction with a new event.
The annual powwow, with registration for drums and dancers at 11 a.m. and grand entries at noon and 6 p.m., was timed to run with the first Montana All-Star Tribal Challenge basketball tournament at the university.
"We want to do this with the powwow every year," said Stacey Gonsalez, Sweetgrass Society adviser and Northern's multicultural coordinator. "Hopefully it will bring more people to town and boost the local economy."
High school basketball teams from schools on all of Montana's seven reservations have been invited to the tournament, which runs today and Friday.
Gonsalez said people from tribes across Montana are acting as head staff during the powwow, filling positions like master of ceremonies. That usually attracts people from other Montana tribes to participate in the powwow, she said.
She said she is also hopeful that the powwow will attract people from other states and Canada.
The powwow includes competitions in all major events, including dancing in adult, teen and junior categories with cash prizes for first, second and third place in male and female competitions.
The dance competition includes male and female traditional, male and female fancy, female jingle and male grass dance.
There also are competitions in a tiny tot category, with a small prize given to each competitor, and a golden age competition for seniors, with cash prizes for each competitor.
The golden age competitions usually have only a few dancers, Gonsalez said.
"It's more of an honor just to see them dance," she added.
There also is a competition for the princesses at the powwow. Contestants must submit a photocopy of their birth certificate, a photo of themselves dressed in full dance regalia, and a typed essay.
The contestants are voted for during the powwow, with each vote costing $1. The photo, essay and the number of votes have equal weight in choosing the winner.
Last year's princesses, whose tenures end at Saturday's powwow, were: Rosemarie Welch of Fort Belknap, MSU-N senior princess; Tanisha Rattler of Browning, MSU-N junior princess, Justina Good Voice of Rocky Boy, Lil Miss MSU-N; and Sierra Morsette of Rocky Boy, Baby MSU-N.
Special dance competitions are being held in honor of the senior princess and Lil Miss MSU-N, with other special competitions to be announced.
The head staffers at the powwow are: Parker School Drum of Rocky Boy, host drum; Tommy Christian of Poplar, master of ceremonies; Clint Brown of Fort Belknap, arena director; Walter Runsabove of Frazer, head man; and Tori Belcourt of Rocky Boy, head woman.
All of the profits from the powwow will be divided among the competitors, Gonsalez said.
The society holds fund-raisers for the event throughout the year, and receives support from some local businesses.
On the Net: MSUN Sweetgrass Society: http://www.msun.edu/stuorgs/sgs/