Annual gathering helps sustain cultural traditions
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — With more than 20,000 Native American residents, the greater Denver area has long been a regional hub for tribal culture and activities, and this weekend, the Denver Coliseum will be filled with more 1,600 dancers, artists, drummers, singers and storytellers at the annual March Powwow, one of the biggest Native American gatherings in the country.
Admission is $7 per day, or $20 for a three-day pass, free for kids six and under, $3 per day for elders. Click here to visit the Denver Powwow on Facebook.
Along with giving visitors a chance to experience Native American cultures, the Powwow is a cultural touchstone for tribes, helping to pass on important traditions.
“It began as a youth enrichment powwow to help Native American children in the Denver area learn traditions without having to go back to their reservations,” said Powwow executive director Grace Gillette. Since those early days, the event has grown to include 93 tribes from 33 states and five Canadian provinces, she said.
The Powwow features 170 booths selling a variety of Native American art works and products, including jewelry, blankets, pottery and beadwork from skilled Indian craftsman. Visitors can sample Native American foods such as fry bread and Indian tacos or buy Cheyenne arrows or a Sioux tomahawks. Click here for a detailed schedule.
A featured activity, “Everyone Dance,” is a free-form dance competition with hundreds of colorful dancers dancing to the beat of 60 drummers in a swirl of colors, bells and beads.
On the Powwow website, modern powwow dancing is described as “different styles derived from traditional dances of the various tribes (each tribe has their own origin legends), but the individual dances are not specific to any one tribe – though they are often associated with a particular geographical area. The dances fall into three basic configurations” the Grand Entry, Intertribal Dances and Contests.” Click here for more information on the various dance events.
To continue the Native American theme of a visit to Denver, visit the recently remodeled American Indian art gallery at the Denver Art Museum. Denver Art Museum (DAM): American Indian Art
The collection is recognized as one of the best Native American artwork collections in the nation, with 18,000 art objects from all cultures and tribes across both the U.S. and Canada. Many of the pieces are being shown at the museum for the first time in the remodeled gallery.
The collection spans 2,000 years, from prehistoric times to present, and encompasses diverse artistic traditions such as Pueblo ceramics, Navajo textiles, Northwest Coast sculpture, basketry, Plains beadwork and oil paintings. There are feathered headdresses, 300 year old hand-painted deerskin shirts, beaded moccasins, ceremonial dresses with bells, horse blankets, totem poles, masks, cradleboards, shawls, and Hopi dolls.
And beginning May 1, the Denver Botanic Gardens will feature an outdoor show with more than 20 works by American modernist Allan Houser (Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache, 1914–1994). Houser is considered one of the most important American artists of the 20th Century and his pioneering work opened the doors for many other Native American artists. Click here for more information.
A few more suggestions for Western and Native American-themed excursions in Denver and along the Front Range from Visit Denver:
Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave – Old West icon Buffalo Bill Cody is buried 30 minutes west of Denver on top of Lookout Mountain. The museum that bears his name takes visitors through Bill’s dynamic life – including his fascinating relationship with American Indians. Originally a scout during the Indian wars, he later became an advocate for American Indians and was well known for treating them with equality and respect during his years touring with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. The museum has many exhibits of Native American craftsmanship, include bow and arrows that were presented to Bill by his friend, Chief Sitting Bull.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science – As visitors travel through the various regions in the eye-opening North American Indian Cultures exhibit hall at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, they’ll explore authentic reconstructed dwellings, including an Eskimo snow house, a Northwest Coast clan house, a Navajo hogan and a Cheyenne tipi.
Native American Trading Company – For more than 25 years, the Native American Trading Company has offered high quality affordable and authentic handmade Indian art, including antique weavings, pottery, baskets, jewelry, artifacts and photographs. Every piece is individually selected by owners, Jack Lima and Robin Lima Riddel, who frequently make trips to reservations, pueblos, and the homes of the artists in search of the finest pieces.
Manitou Cliff Dwellings Museum – The Manitou Cliff Dwellings Museum, located at the foot of Pikes Peak (an hour south of Denver), is a rare treasure, allowing visitors to explore the remarkably preserved ruins of a long-gone civilization. “There are no ‘Do Not Touch’ signs,” the Museum’s website proudly proclaims. Visitors are free to touch and even go inside these architectural remnants of an American Indian culture that roamed the Four Corners area of the Southwest from 1200 B.C. to A.D. 1300.
Tesoro Indian Market and Powwow at The Fort – This annual event (2011 dates: May 14-15) is highlighted by award-winning Native American artists who show their wares and demonstrate their crafts. A contest Powwow fills the valley below the historic Fort Restaurant, when dancers and drummers share their heritage in competitions of Traditional, Shawl, Fancy, Grass and Jingle dancing. The Fort is a replica of Bent’s Old Fort, which served as an Indian trading post on the Santa Fe Trail. Made from genuine adobe bricks, The Fort specializes in foods of the Old West including buffalo, elk, quail, and even rattlesnake.
Filed under: Colorado, Travel Tagged: | Allan Houser, Denver, Denver Art Museum, Denver March Powwow, Native American dancing, Native Americans in the United States, Summit County News, Travel, Visual arts by indigenous peoples of the Americas