Winter is the time for social powwows in the urban Indian world. We've been to three in the last eight days. The social powwow is generally a one-session powwow starting with Grand Entry at seven in the evening and running until eleven. Last night's powwow at Chief Leschi School in Puyallup was an especially memorable one.
Chief Leschi was a Puyallup Indian who was hung for murder. The murder was not rightfully a murder. It was the death of a white during a battle between the white men and the tribe. A couple of weeks ago a panel of notable jurists listened to arguments at a retrial of Chief Leschi and after hearing arguments on both sides found the chief innocent. It doesn't sound like much. After all, the chief has been dead from hanging for a long time. But to the Indians it means a great deal. A woman member of the Puyallup tribe spoke very emotionally about the retrial and the finding of the judges. A small thing to redress a wrong.
My friend, John Jones, showed up. John is from Oklahoma and used to show up at many powwows in the northwest. He drummed and sang with a drum called Redstone. The the drum broke up. One member went off to the Univ. of Arizona to earn a doctor's degree. The lead singer went back to Oklahoma. And John disappeared. All this was probably five years ago. Last year in the spring I spotted him at a powwow. He said he was putting together new regalia and would be dancing again. Last evening he showed up with his new "Cherokee Tuxedo." His new regalia is splendid and it is so good to have someone dancing southern straight style in the northwest again. Most of our dancers either dance northern plains style or coastal style. There are only a handful who dance southern style and they don't show up at our powwows very often. So John is very welcome.
And someone brought a whole bin full of hand drums. Sonny Eaglespeaker just loves to sing with a hand drum. Of course the dance is most often a friendship dance, which is a round dance with a side step. So about fifteen singers took the center of the dance floor, each with a hand drum, and the round dance was done around them. I've seen larger round dances but this was a pretty good one. A lot of dancers came out of their seats to dance and Sonny kept them on the dance floor with song after song. He had a big smile on his face and anyone could tell how much he was enjoying himself.
Every third Saturday through March or April this social powwow will be held. I'm looking forward to each of them being as much fun as this one was. I'm also looking forward to a New Years powwow. That will welcome the new year in.