Looking Back: Bringing in the New Year Powwow Style

By Latoya Lonelodge

February is almost here. Let's look back at all the fun many had ringing in the new year at the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes Governor’s Powwow!

What better way to bring in the New Year than with a powwow

The second annual Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes Governor’s Powwow was held at the Pioneer Cellular Event Center, bringing dancers from across to the U.S. to Weatherford, Okla.

The first weekend of the New Year kick started the powwow with gourd dances, eye-catching regalia, jingling melodies of dresses and outfits, and empowering rhythms coming from the drums.

With the addition of a fashion show featured at the powwow, Native American fashion designers and models were incorporated into this year’s powwow festivities.

Traveling near and far, many prioritized being a part of the powwow that honors all tribes and elders with over 300 registered dancers.

“It took a lot of long hours, we started back in April of 2019, lots of man hours, lots of long hours away from our families, months of preparation. I did a lot of marketing and I did a lot of going to powwows myself when I could, really promoting it at the northern powwows, working with powwows.com to get it advertised doing everything I could to facilitate more sponsors. Asking for money is easy getting it is the hard part,” Tonya Moore, one of the powwow’s organizers said.

In outlining the ideas and suggestions for the Governor’s Powwow, Moore said she’s thankful for the collaboration and efforts given by others throughout the process.

“I’m so fortunate and I’m so thankful that the governor and the executive staff, the casinos, the tribes, our elders, anybody that came here, I’m so fortunate that they were a part of this dream that we have. It was part of Gov. Wassana’s campaign promise when he was elected, he wanted to do something for the elders, I know it received a lot of backlash just because it’s new, it’s different, something that we as Cheyenne and Arapaho people are not used to, but here’s the thing, what I believe in is with success you have to take the criticism, and us as C&A people we’re resilient no matter what somebody says about us,” Moore said.

Remembering last year’s powwow when the Northern Cree agreed to be the drum group for the powwow, Moore explained the importance of forming powwow relationships.

“They said if you will just get us a plane ticket and a hotel room, that’s all they would request, but everybody in the world would pay them hundreds and thousands of dollars, now that tells you everything you need to know about powwow relationships. If you nurture those, if you are good to people, they’re not going to ask you for anything in return, people are genuinely kind hearted people and they did that out of the goodness of their heart to come to Weatherford, Okla., to do this for us, that’s beautiful,” Moore said.

Moore said that in reaching out to fellow companies that the tribes currently had business with, a corporate sponsorship package was created and sent out to 87 different organizations and businesses.

“I sent them to nations, powwows that I always frequently hit, I sent them out to all of our companies that we do business with, Golden Corral, Ross Feed and Seed, the Cherokee Trading Post, anybody … we’ve gotten maybe 14 bites, if you look around we have banners, every one of them made a contribution to us, none of these funds derived from the tribe, none, and I know that it’s great our other powwows received funding but I really believe that if everybody puts forth the effort to raise them funds, all the other powwows could be just as big as this one. It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication,” Moore said.

And the event center floor showed it as it filled up with dazzling colors, sparkling pieces of regalia, fluttering plumes and feathers, and shook with the sounds of the bass of the drums during grand entry. All eyes were on the arena, as dancers of all ages filed in showcasing what seemed like an endless supply of alluring beadwork and movement.

Honoring elders through the powwow made an impact on many dancers who are elders themselves as they shared how the powwow differs from their home powwows out of state.

Connie Fox Twins, with the Mandan and Hidatsa Tribes, traveled to the powwow with her husband Wesley Twins.

“A lot of the songs are different, the beat, the rhythm, up north the songs are more faster and at a faster pace, here it’s a slower beat and I’m kind of trying to get used to it because it’s a different rhythm, as you noticed I dance stationary and a lot of them were dancing around me and a lot of people always ask where I’m from because I dress different and I dance different,” Twins said.

Having traveled to many different powwows before, Twins participated in the arena and golden age categories wearing her fully beaded hat.

“It was a Christmas present, my youngest sister gave me the hat and I love it, I have short hair so I don’t have braids and the hat comes in handy,” Twins said.

In her first time attending the powwow, Twins said she was getting a feel for southern hospitality in the powwow arena.

“I like it, I’m enjoying myself, I’m meeting a lot of new people and getting reconnected with my powwow lady dancers, especially the golden age … I just enjoy being at the powwow and dancing, I’ve been dancing ever since I was little. I was a fancy dancer, that was old style dancing, and then I’m into traditional now,” Twins said.

Joyce Bigsoldier Miller, with the Iowa and Otto-Missouria Tribes, said when she got the flyer and friends invited her, she had to attend.

“We came to one last year and it was really an enjoyable powwow, we liked it and it was so different, it was a good powwow and we wanted to come back again this year,” Miller said.

In honoring elders, Miller said that’s what makes the powwow unique in and of itself.

“It makes us want to come and be part of it and participate, I don’t know of any other place that has done this and so it is good to honor the elders, sometimes the younger folks don’t give the elders their position, their rightful place, they kind of take them for granted and just think that they’re there or that’s just grandma or grandpa, but you know whenever they do something like this we hear the comments about being treasures and they’re the treasures of our tribe and we treat them so. It’s good, I’m glad it’s done for all the tribes, it’s not just one particular tribe but honoring all tribes, when they call on the elders to dance, right away we wanted to be a part of it, although we’re not Cheyenne and Arapaho,” Miller said.

With 14 sponsors who donated financially to the powwow, Cheyenne and Arapaho Gov. Reggie Wassana said it was easier organizing for the powwow this year because of the template used from the year before.

“We had some sponsors that helped this year that didn’t help last year and the sponsors we did have helped as well. I think it was a big success, we have 348 dancers this year, the gym is full of people and the arena’s full of dancers so we feel it’s a success and our whole goal was to bring something to western Oklahoma, a powwow that people can get to, they don’t have to drive hours or days to attend, that we have some of the best dancers in the country, we have some of the best drum groups in the country, we wanted to bring it here so people could actually come enjoy the music, enjoy the dances, feel comfortable, feel safe being 30-45 minutes away from home and that’s what we wanted to do. To bring a national level event to western Oklahoma for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes,” Wassana said.

With donations adding up to approximately $150,000, Wassana said they achieved what they wanted by bringing some of the best talent across the country to western Oklahoma.

“Our whole goal like I discussed before was to bring people to western Oklahoma so we can all enjoy it and it was a lot of work, it was a lot of effort but with all that, we made it happen. Some people only talk about doing these things but we actually did it and so that in itself is success for the tribe, that the tribal leadership did do this event and it was an success,” Wassana said.

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