The Norman Transcript


January 5, 2014

Native American inter-tribal dances foster energetic competition, camaraderie and cultural rejuvenation


Powwows —

Dancing and seeing friends he wouldn’t see anywhere else except at powwows is the main attraction.

“We hang out and chit-chat,” Yarholar said. “It’s better than staying home watching TV, and if we don’t go to a powwow, we end up wishing we had.”

These days, social media is instrumental in promoting powwows in advance and sharing photos of the festivities during and after the fact.

Jeri Redcorn is a longtime Norman resident, ceramic artist and cultural doyenne of the Caddo Nation. Her first powwow experiences began when she was a small child in 1950 in Colony.

“It was mostly Cheyenne-Arapaho because of the nearby reserve, and I think some Kiowa came over,” she said. “There were a lot of family songs, and head dancers were chosen.”

Those small gatherings were few and far between.

“So much has changed from the dances when I was a child, and there were maybe 20 adults and 30 of us kids,” Redcorn said. “My uncle would fire up the big, black stove in the Cheyenne community center. We’d have two singers, and everyone there (were) people I knew. It was very comforting knowing I belonged.”

Larger and more organized powwows followed that included enormous campsites, donated beef and prize money.

One constant is always lively conversation and family involvement.

“You see people that you haven’t seen for awhile,” Redcorn said. “It’s the place to meet life-long friends and make new ones.”

In addition to singing, dancing and drumming, display and sale of art and handicrafts are at most powwows. You’ll never go hungry because fry bread, Indian tacos, corn soup, rice and raisins, hominy, jerky and game stews are typical fare.

After high school, Redcorn aggressively pursued education out of state and, by the 1980s, was armed with a graduate degree from Penn State. Her passion for preserving and further developing American Native traditions and culture always burned bright.

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