Preparing for Next Pow Wow Season: A Field Guide
During the month of December Crystal Pewo Lightfoot and many others in Indian Country were not only wrapping presents, but also cleaning their buckskin and resoling their moccasins for the next pow wow season.
“In December, my daughter and I take our dresses all the way apart, clean them, and put on new strings and embellishments. I redo the beads that hang off my dress every year,” said Lightfoot.
She also tries to get as many years as she can out of her regalia, especially the buckskin. New buckskin can cost about $800, so it’s paramount that Lightfoot takes care of the regalia she owns, as well as the rest of her family’s regalia.
“With a family of four everyone isn’t going to get new stuff every year, so we have to prioritize,” Lightfoot said. “One year it’s my daughter’s turn for new regalia, then the next year it is my son, then, finally, it’s my husband and my turn.”
Justin Goggles, Blackfeet, and his partner Marc Martin-Keka, Wichita Proper Tribal member, know how important it is to try and prioritize your needs when it comes to your regalia, with an eye on saving money.
Goggles is a Prairie Chicken dancer and Martin-Keka is a Southern Straight dancer. Together, they mix contemporary with old style and are constantly working on their regalia. They often will hunt for bargains, trying to buy material for their regalia when it’s on sale, which is usually off-season.
“We love us some coupons and are both on the mailing list for Jo-Ann fabric and craft store,” said Goggles. “We get all the best deals.”
Laurissa Smith, Tohono O’odham, is a Jingle dancer and also considers hunting for sales a must when buying he regalia material. As a matter of a fact, she said she likes to stock up as much as possible, since she tries to have a new outfit made every year.
Smith also trades the materials with others to get what she needs. This is a point that Goggles concurs with. He said knowing how to make items and trading them can save you money.
Speaking of making your own regalia, I spoke with Rodney FirstStrike, who does just that.
“Being able to make my own things has saved me a lot of money and, sometimes, it makes me money because I am able to make stuff for other people,” FirstStrike said.
FirstStrike is a Chicken dancer. He is Blackfeet, Assiniboine and Cree.
Mariah ShieldChief Gover does all her own beadwork for her regalia. Gover, Skidi-Pawnee and Tohono O’odham, dances Southern Cloth.
She said she prefers to do her own beadwork because she knows what she wants better than anyone else.
For example, she said if someone else did her beadwork they might use a different shade of red than she wanted. Or the design she had envisioned might be different than what the person doing the beadwork had in mind, causing the awkward situation of getting the item back and being unable to really do anything about it, unless she wanted to spend more money having it altered.
Gover said she has heard about these unfortunate scenarios from different people and would rather just avoid them by doing the work herself. Also, by doing her own beadwork, Gover’s able to unleash some of her creativity. Creating your own regalia is an artform, and Gover relishes the chance to get creative and play with different colors and shapes.
For instance, she said she has shifted recently and gone from creating geometric designs to floral, while switching her color palette to focus more on yellows.
Another way Gover, and many others, keeps regalia costs down is by having items passed down from one generation to the next. This is a time honored tradition that speaks to the familial vein coursing through so much of the pow wow world. What’s more, generational items like this can find new lives as they’re passed from one family member to another.
“I have a choker with a medallion that was my uncle’s that was passed down to me.” She said. “Now the medallion sits on a silver band that I wear.”
Gover said pieces of her grandfather’s outfits are still worn today by family members.
Preparing for the pow wow season isn’t just about your regalia, of course. It’s also about preparing yourself physically. Goggles makes sure he stays in shape and dances to pow wow music every day.
“We (him and his partner) practice in our living room with a stereo, we don’t need any fancy equipment or gym membership,” he said.
FirstStrike keeps in shape no matter where he is, at home or out in the world. And once a week he puts on his moccasins, bells, bustle, headdress and dances.
“I go for as long as I can,” he said. “That way it stays with me and I don’t get out of shape or rusty.”
And as with most everything in life, preparing for the next pow wow season is a mental thing—procrastination is something you want to avoid at all costs.
“It is harder to get things done when you let it go for so long and you only have a certain amount of time to get it done,” Lightfoot wisely advises.
So as you prepare for next pow wow season, remember—don’t buy what you can make, don’t sit and wait to dance when you can dance right now, and, finally, don’t wait for tomorrow to do prepare for your pow wow season when today is always the perfect time to get started.