Pow Wow Meets Rodeo in Las Vegas
This November, the Indian National Finals Rodeo (INFR) plans to introduce an INFR pow wow to be held in conjunction with the rodeo, November 8-12, in Las Vegas.
Frank Whitecalfe (MHA Nation – North Dakota) has been an INFR commissioner for five years and has watched the rodeo go through growth pains over its four-plus decades of existence. But he has seen a resurgence of interest over the past few years, with growing support of tribal communities across the U.S. and Canada.
“There were times we barely broke even… While Las Vegas is an entertainment mecca, there’s not a lot of rodeo people to be found in the general population, so we needed to bring in more folks with a familiarity of the rodeo. When I was a youngster attending Native roping and riding events, they all included pow wows, so a couple of years ago we started discussing the possibility of returning the pow wow to our event.”
In addition, there will be an introductory crowning of World Champions pow wow in conjunction with the rodeo. “The pow wow world has never had a World Series Championship similar to the world series of rodeo, so this is a first,” said Whitecalfe.
“The concept is already exploding,” says Whitecalfe. “With three months left to go, we already have 200 dancers signed up and fully expect that number to grow as high as 600-700. And 10 drums have already been accepted out of the 12-15 we anticipate. My concern isn’t ‘will it work’, but will it get too big, too fast — and that’s a nice kind of problem to have.”
The pow wow, to be held in the Fremont District’s Cashman Center, will feature a Youth Day celebration on November 9 with pow wow finals on November 10-11, preceeding the actual INFR Rodeo Finals on the 12th.
Dance demonstrations for youth on pow wow Day One will be open to the public with over $15,000 in dance prize money to be awarded in nine adult men’s and women’s categories. Women will compete in jingle dance; fancy shawl; Northern traditional, and Southern buckskin/cloth, while men will vie in the categories of grass; chicken; Southern straight; Northern traditional, and fancy feather. The tribe with the most winning dancers earns bragging rights as Overall Tribal Champion.
Daily grand entry is at noon. Arena Director duties will be shared by Oklahoma’s Juaquin Hamilton and Rusty Gillette from North Dakota with Montana’s Ruben Little Head as announcer. Says the MC: “It’s gonna be rockin’.”
“Pow wow people are starving for this, an end-of-the-year grand finale — the World Series and the Super Bowl rolled into one,” said Whitecalfe. “The time has come.”
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