Stories for the Spirit: From Broadway to the Pow Wow Circle
Storytelling is more than a vocation for Phillip Whiteman Jr. He says it’s a way of life.
He was raised in Lame Deer, Montana, and has been a grass dancer since childhood, traveling from the pow wow arena to Broadway to Wild West shows to President Clinton’s inauguration as a dancer. But he says storytelling is “deeply rooted in who he is.”
Whiteman, a member of the Northern Cheyenne nation, will bring his traditional storytelling to the 40th Denver March Powwow, March 21 to 23. Whiteman and his family have been involved with the Denver pow wow since its inception in the 1970s. His father, the late Phillip Whiteman Sr., was part of the Northern Cheyenne Chiefs of the Council of 44 and was the drum-keeper for the Chief Society. His drum group, the Lame Deer Singers, attended Denver’s first pow wow gatherings four decades ago. Phillip was the first recording artist for Indian Records.
Whiteman’s mother, the late Florence Whiteman, was the last Warrior Woman of the Elk Scraper Society. She also was the last Cheyenne woman to be married for a bride price of four horses, in a traditional ceremony at age 14.
“Both of my parents played significant roles with the Northern Cheyenne, and my grandparents on both sides were chiefs and leaders at the Battle of the Little Bighorn,” Whiteman said. “Now, I take on these roles. I grew up around horses, pow wows, traditional culture.… I was destined to fulfill these roles to the teachings of my parents and grandparents.”
Whiteman remains active with his father’s drum group, now renamed Phillip Whiteman Generation, and together with his partner, Lynette Two Bulls, he released a CD, Spirit Seeker.
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