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Rocky Boy's Celebration sees attendance in thousands


August 6, 2018

Havre Daily News/Ryan Welch

Thousands attended Rocky Boy's 54th Annual Celebration powwow with more than 800 registered dancers participating in the event.

Dancers and visitors from all over the United States as well as from Canada attended the powwow, which had many events and competitions for people to participate in.

One of the masters of ceremony was Dale Old Horn from Montana's Crow Agency, who has been a public speaker since 1969 and has attended the Rocky Boy powwow off and on since the its beginning in 1964.

He said many things have changed since he was young, such as the dancing styles, the singing and some dances being added, such as the women's jingle dance. He added that the powwow has grown incredibly since 1964, with this year being one of the largest, and he was happy to see the younger generation being involved.

In 1964 Native American people all across the nation could not afford the materials to create such beautiful regalia, Old Horn said, adding that an all-over war on poverty in recent years has lifted up tribal communities.

The Crow population has grown from 2,450 people in 1964 to around 14,500 today, he said, with other tribal communities seeing a similar rise in population. Old Horn said additional health care and better environments on reservations have helped the population grow, but the credit goes to the strength of the tribal people.

Old Horn said any expression of culture is important and that he likes all the dances.

"It gives a sense of purpose that God has instilled on the earth," Old Horn said.

He added that it gives him hope that at least this part of Native culture will remain strong, although other aspects of the culture have declined, such as Native languages and religions.  With those two parts of Native culture in decline, Old Horn said, he fears that the dances may lose the meaning behind them.

At 24 percent, The Crow Tribe has one of the largest percentages of Native speaking people, he said, adding that it is important to teach the youth about everything that goes into the dance in addition to the dance itself.

One of the dancers at the event, Cakta Clairmont from Denver, Colorado, said he has attended many of the Rocky Boy powwows over the years. He said he had been dancing since he was a young boy starting with boy's fancy but is now a grass dancer.

When he was a young boy he first saw a grass dancer and did not know what style it was but was very interested in learning, he said, adding that the grass dance had almost died out by then. Since then he has been asking a lot of questions and has worked with Rocky Boy champion dancer Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, to learn more about grass dancing, he said.

Windy Boy is facing a challenge from former Rep. Gilbert Bruce Meyers, R-Box Elder, in his bid to keep his seat representing House District 32.

Clairmont said the grass dance has many different stories tied to it. Traditionally, grass dancers beat down the grass before celebration; the dance was for the elderly, children or disabled who couldn't dance themselves, he said.

Every part of his regalia has meaning, he said. The beads hanging from his headband were made to represent tears, he said, while the mirrors he stuck all over himself reflect off bad feelings. The regalia, which he said he made himself, took six months to prepare.

He added that his favorite part of the powwow is the community, being able to see people he hasn't seen in a long time including family separated by distance.

Another dancer at the event was Kishey Baker from Rocky Boy. She said she is a northern buckskin dancer, originally from Saskatchewan, Canada.

Baker said she made her own regalia with what she had learned from her mother when she was a young girl. She said that the design is a family tradition with the floral pattern and the eagle being sacred and passed through generations. The dress' colors and design are made to honor and represent family, she said, adding that she, her husband, Harlan Baker, and her family have a camper at the powwow grounds that is open to visitors from long distances and other dancers to come and visit.

Havre Daily News/Ryan Welch

Ronald Windy Boy stands with other veterans of the United States Armed Services during a grand entry at Rocky Boy's Powwow Saturday.

She said she had started making her first dress by herself in 2000 but had made a dress with her mother's help in 1988. She added that the dress that she was wearing for the powwow was now four to five years old. Baker said it is important to pass on these traditions to the next generation because it helps express individuality and celebrates life.

"We're all song searching," Baker said.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who faces a challenge in his re-election bid from Republican Montana Auditor Matt Rosendale, was at the powwow Saturday.

Tester said he often goes to the Rocky Boy powwow and that he enjoys the regalia more than anything else at the event. He added that he also enjoys going to the rodeo.

Dale Old Horn spoke about Tester to the crowd, saying Tester was crucial in Native American water settlement acts, which fixed water rights issues for many reservations.

Old Horn described Tester as a "champion of the people."


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