22nd Annual Veteran's Powwow

Continuing my work on "Hearts on the Ground" I returned to Minnesota over the July 11th weekend to attend the largest Veteran's Powwow in the nation on Fond du Lac Reservation. Relative to population, Indian country has the largest number of volunteers that have served our nation's defenses.

The event was an amazing experience for myself and incredibly important for the project. To witness the different generations celebrate their history, culture and sacred beliefs reminded me of what American Indians are fighting for and why. This will play an important role in the story we are telling. The weekend was filled with traditional music, dancing and food. 

“A strong sense of identity keeps us functioning as a community despite the chaos and dysfunction. That and a serious sense of humor allows us to keep moving forward and take care of one another, even if some are not ready yet. We stay in our communities even when it seems like we should leave because if we don't, who will? And not as martyrs to the dysfunction but as the ones who can help carry on our culture, language and most importantly love and raise our babies.” - Nikki Crowe, Hearts on the Ground

Identity is a socially and historically constructed concept, defined partly through interactions with family, peers, institutions and media. A strong sense of identity is fundamental for the successful growth of the individual and the community.

From the start U.S. government policies were aimed at destroying Native culture and identity. Politicians throughout history believed that assimilation or annihilation were the only options for dealing with “the Indian problem". Colonel Richard Henry Pratt, who started the Carlisle Indian School in 1879  stated “Kill the Indian, save the Man.” Until the 1970’s Boarding schools were notorious for their mental, physical and sexual abuse towards Indigenous peoples in the United States and Canada.

“Rape is a weapon of war, if you want to conquer a people, destroy their culture and rape their women.” Cristine, Hearts on the Ground, 2013

"The original owner of the soil, the man from whom we have taken the country in order that we may make of it a refuge of the world, where all men should be free if not equal, is the only man in it who is not recognized as entitled to the right of a human being.” New York Tribune, 1880

Many American Indian tribes are matriarchal in nature. And almost all ascribe sacred powers to women. The ability to heal, communicate with the Mother Nature, and to bring forth life, whether from the ground or the womb are foremost among them. Women were sacred in these communities.

At the time of first contact European women had very little worth, held no positions of power, were not allowed to own land and according to dominant religious laws were the property and responsibility of men to control and punish as they saw fit. This patriarchal hierarchy often clashed with the Native way of life that valued harmony and balance in society and nature.

The jingle is a sacred dance used for healing and prayer. Whether for physical ailments such as cancer or emotional such as grieving. The jingle dress is the regalia worn for this dance, which includes ornaments with multiple rows of metal cones, which create the jingle.

Because of the sacredness of a healing dance pictures are not allowed. This was taken during what’s called the “Grand Entry”, the ceremonial start of each day at a powwow.

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 Prints are for sale and profits go to the completion of the project

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