Powwow Idol winner Standing Horse releases first album

Gale Courey Toensing
11/12/08

RAPID CITY, S.D. – When the Standing Horse Singers won the first 2008 Pow wow Idol contest earlier this year, a part of the grand prize was the opportunity to record a CD that would be produced and distributed by DrumHop Productions.

The album, called “The Beginning,” has been recorded and it debuted Oct. 10 at the celebrated He Sapa Wacipi Na Oskate (Black Hills Pow wow) an annual pow wow, art expo, youth symposium, and style show. The huge event features not only Lakota and Dakota Indians, but also many tribes from Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Canada and across the continent.

This year’s event took place Oct. 10-12 at the Rushmore Place Civic Center in Rapid City, and featured the award winning Standing Horse Singers. The group  has been together for less than two years although its individual members have decades of experience in other groups.

“This is kind of the next stepping stone in our young singing career,” said Whitney Rencountre II, a member of the Huntapati Dakota, and Standing Horse lead singer. He lives at the Yankton Sioux reservation where he teaches Indian studies at the high school. All the members of Standing Horse are Sioux from the Lakota, Dakota and Umo’ho tribes.

“The album signifies a lot for us, taking that first step in the process of carrying on the teachings of our grandfathers and grandmothers. That’s kind of what our mission is and our goal. Where we’re heading with this drum group is to carry that tradition on and to recognize the fact that our people fought many battles – the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota – many battles till 1978 when they passed the Religious Freedom Act and that’s kind of the celebration for our music and what we’d like to bring to light – that tradition and that respect around the drum. It’s much more than music to us,” Rencountre said.

The first national Pow wow Idol contest began in August 2007 and had 10 rounds. For each round, drum groups were required to submit songs in categories of Intertribal; Victory/Veteran Song; Fancy Shawl or Fancy Feather contest song; Northern: Crow Hop, Southern: Trot;  Northern: Sneak Up, Southern: Ruffle; Trick Song; Singer’s Choice; Flag Song; Round Dance; and Singer’s Choice again for the finals.

The groups recorded their songs and sent them to DrumHop Productions, which posted the recordings at www.pow wowidol.com for the public to vote on. The group with the least number of votes was eliminated every couple of weeks.

Standing Horse was the last group standing in the final round last March and won by a vote of 298-173.

“The Beginning” will be distributed by DrumHop Productions and sold at pow wows and other events, and online at www.drumjhop.net and www.pow wows.com, the Web site that hosts the Pow wow Idol contest.

Standing Horse performed at pow wows all summer.

“Once work started again, my wife and I and some of the other members who work at schools were able to sit down and review the summer and see, wow, we traveled every weekend,” Rencountre said.

Standing Horse is also the “Pow wow Ambassador” for Tanka Bar, a 100 percent natural buffalo cranberry energy bar made by Native American Natural Foods. It’s a perfect fit; the Native-owned business is as traditional as Standing Horse. The Tanka Bar is “built on the ancestors’ knowledge of the ideal portable energy for endurance and top performance helping us to run far, work hard, or dance all night with joy and appreciation,” the company says at its Web site www.tankabar.com.

Standing Horse plans to perform at pow wows again all winter.

“My grandmother used to always say pow wowing is hard. At times we may have just enough money to get to the pow wow, not knowing how we’re going to get home, unless we’re invited as the host drum. My grandparents always used to say you’re never going to get rich off of pow wows. It’s a difficult way of life so it shows how much we love it – all dancers and singers,” Rencountre said.

The group also makes presentations at conferences and other events and has been invited to present in Washington this winter, Rencountre said.

“The Beginning” has 17 songs composed by Standing Horse.

“They’re all pow wow songs and every song has its own meaning. They are Dakota or Lakota, which is basically the same language with different dialects. The songs represent our travels and some are songs people asked us to make for them or we just made for people. Others are songs talking about dancing at pow wows and how good it feels, and we titled it ‘The Beginning’ because this is the beginning of something we want to last for a long time so we can pass down what has been passed down to us. We’re really excited about this experience we’ve had and we want to share it with everybody,” Rencountre said.

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