A Pow Wow in Navajo: Photos
With little more than open country intermittently interrupted by short buttes and small hills, a large dust bowl could be seen next to a Giant gas station in the rural community of White Cone, Arizona. Much of the Navajo Nation chapter and surrounding communities came out for the White Cone Chapter Mother’s Day Powwow, on the afternoon of May 11.
The pow wow, featuring several well-known dancers, was the creation of White Cone Chapter community service coordinator Velma Robertson, who also served as the pow wow coordinator. Robertson wanted to offer something the whole community could enjoy; she and the chapter’s administrators presented more than 75 dancers, with several hundred people in attendance, including dozens of children kicking up sand while playing and taking dives in it.
The chapter house parking lot was full and many of the food vendors were sold out of popular staples. “We didn’t expect it to be this big, we thought it was going to be a small event but it turned out we got a lot of dancers and drum groups,” Robertson said.
Amid the crowd was a man on a mission: southern straight dancer Aldrick “Apple” Jackson of Dilkon, Arizona, who was asked to be the headman for the event. This was his first outdoor pow wow of the season in the Navajo Nation.
“I like the arbor, I like how everything is set up and how they accommodate the dancers and visitors and how everybody is really happy,” Jackson said.
On a more somber note, jingle dress dancer Lorae Medina, 14, and her sister Shantel, 17, shed tears as they made their way around the pow wow circle, closely followed by family and friends, many of whom paid their respect to the young ladies. They sponsored a juniors jingle dress special for their late grandmother who passed away in February.
“It was a special for our grandma, and it’s our way for us to get back into the pow wow circuit,” Lorae said.
Another special event of note, and fitting to the occasion, was the mother-daughter dance put on by Tennille Coversup of Tuba City, Arizona. Half a dozen mother-daughter pairs of different dancing styles participated in the friendly competition. Some stayed close and mirrored each other’s steps in a highly choreographed set while others moved to their own beat and only slightly resembled a tandem.
Fancy dancer Evelyna Gray of Kayenta, Arizona and her daughter Tamarah, 13, worked out their routine just before coming to the pow wow but were instant crowd favorites due to their high-tempo dance and synchronized moves.
“It was fun and a big honor to do this with her,” Gray said, referring to her daughter.
Even more excited than her mother, Tamarah didn’t think they were particularly good but was satisfied with their third-place finish.
“I like dancing, and I love dancing with my mom because I love my mom and I always have much fun with her,” Tamarah said.
The event featured a strong field of current and past champion dancers, including fancy dancer Isaiah Bob, fresh off his Gathering of Nations first place finish.
“It’s only a couple of hours for us to get here so we decided to come over while the kids are at a basketball tournament,” Bob said.
In the end the pow wow was much bigger than the organizers anticipated for their small community activity to honor mothers on their day. And elders were recognized as well.
“I usually bring an activity to the chapter each month, we have basketball games but nothing much for the elders,” Robertson said. “So my goal was to bring out the elders and enjoy this Mother’s Day.”