Photo courtesy Alexandra Hootnick
The women's jingle dress category on Friday night at Fort Berthold's Mandaree Pow Wow.

Mandaree Pow Wow Blows Up, Sets Record For Dancers, Drummers

Alexandra Hootnick
July 30, 2013

From July 18 to 24, the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nations welcomed a record 347 dancers and 29 drum groups from places as far as Florida, Texas and Alberta, Canada, during Fort Berthold’s Annual Mandaree Pow Wow in western North Dakota.

Pow wow President RoseAnn Johnson, a descendant of Hidatsa chiefs and a longtime dancer, said that the number of people who come to the event in Mandaree, which is the center of the Hidatsa community, grows each year. She said the pow wow began sometime in the mid 1950s.

The state’s recent oil boom has led to rapid development in the area, which in turn has prompted controversy. But it has helped the committee draw unprecedented sponsorship.

Jolene Fox, an Arikara woman and pow wow secretary, said that two local industry groups donated a tax-deductible $20,000 to the event. Private donations have helped to offer competitive winnings and draw top musicians and dancers to the pow wow. 

However, unlike some of the larger, more commercial pow wows, Johnson said that holding onto local custom is important.

“We try and keep it traditional,” Johnson said. 

Every year, the Mandaree pow wow committee provides rations of food to visitors. Drum groups from the area customarily have men rather than women behind the drum, though outside groups are welcome to practice their respective traditions.

While more people have gotten involved in pow wows over the last few decades, Johnson and others on the circuit here have recently been observing the “old style” bouncing back. The most popular dance category at the Mandaree pow wow is the Men’s Traditional, with 31 registrants.

“Right now people are wanting to get back to the roots of being Native,” said Norma Baker-Flying Horse, a champion jingle dress dancer of Hidatsa and Sioux origin.

Other than taking two years off to prepare her children to dance, Baker-Flying Horse has been on the pow wow circuit for as long as she can remember. Mandaree, where she lives with her family and relatives, has a legacy of champion dancers and singers who have embraced their traditional ways.

Baker-Flying Horse’s grandfather, the late Norman Baker of the Hidatsa tribe, was one of the founding brothers of the world-renowned Mandaree Singers, who formed in the late 1950s.

Sidrick Baker, a current member and son of the late Billy Baker, who led the drum group, describes their singing as “straight,” or without words. The Mandaree Singers were one of the first groups to travel around the country to play at different pow wows in the 1970s.

The Mandaree Singers hosted this weekend’s pow wow along with two newer, “old style” groups gaining widespread recognition: Young Bear and Oakdale. In 2012, Young Bear won the Gathering of Nations world singing title and best traditional CD from the Aboriginal People’s Choice Awards.

Although Baker-Flying Horse said she prefers dancing the older style jingle versus the contemporary version, keeping her family connected to their Native identity, no matter what style of dance or song, is most important.

“Without our music, I think we would be totally lost,” she said. “Our music connects us to our way of life.”

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Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on

We need to see more of our traditional ways, dress & music instead of all the new-fangled garb I see coming into powwow's. Let's see a return to the traditional materials & colors as well.

Perhaps we need to have separate powwow's for just that exact thing. As a traditionalist in my ways I just see all these new things as taking our young ones away from who we are & where we came from. same thing goes for some of the music I hear at some powwow's as well. It is not who are people were or where we came from.To gain the power & wisdom of the past we must return to the ancient ways as well.

I am so tired of seeing our kids dress like hip-hop thugs with their pants & shorts hanging down to their knees & ball caps turned around every which way. It is disrespectful & shameful at the music I hear so many young folks listening to as well. It degrades females, disrespects our elders & those in authority. It praises drugs, booze & shameful behaviors. That is disgraceful my friends. We are First Nations People folks. NOT African gangsters.

Who is at fault here folks? The parents are; that's who! If you didn't allow your children to hear these things, play them in your homes, wear those clothes that YOU bought them; etc. The fault lies on your hands parents who allow such things in your homes.

We need POSITIVE role models for our young people. Not the negative I see in so many different places. Parents, how about stepping up & standing up for what is right for a change? We have way too much negative going on with all the drugs & alcohol abuse across Indian Country my friends. One more First Nation person dying from all these negative things is one person too many. I am tired of all the funerals across our lands because of these evil things my friends.

We have the power within our own hands to change this climate of hopelessness. All it takes is taking a stand against ALL the negative & instead promoting wholesome, healthy lifestyles, family-oriented events my friends.

Are YOU going to be a hero in your community & take that stand against all the negative? Join me my friends in standing up TODAY & saying, " No More!" Be one of the positive elders, men, women & young people in YOUR community TODAY that leads the way in leading our people away from all the negative influences & return them to the good ways of our ancestors.

The Great Spirit will guide each one of us our here across Indian Country & where ever else our many people live across Turtle Island if you just allow Him in your lives to show you the good ways of our ancestors my friends.

The power to be a people respected, honored & cherished is within each one our hands IF we take a stand to make the changes we need to make one person at a time, one family at a time, one clan at a time & one tribe at a time my friends & distant relations. The Creator loves a good heart & a spirit that is willing to change in a good way.

May the Great Spirit watch over & bless each of you my friends & those so special in your lives.

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