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Published: October 22nd 2006
Usually every Autumn the Native American Community puts on a Pow-Wow at Thomas Square, located almost in the center of Honolulu, sandwiched between the Honolulu Academy of Arts and the Blaisdell Concert and Exhibit Hall and Arena.
Various stalls are set up, selling NA jewelry, pottery, T-shirts, CDs, sweet grass, handcrafted items. Books, photos and Indian Tacos, a round deep fried bread topped with refried beans, diced tomatoes, cheese, lettuce and salsa. Quite tasty and popular among the spectators.
The main draw of course is the dancing and elaborate costumes of the participants, accompanied by live drummers and singers. The announcer is usually quite charismatic and entertaining as well. Frankly, though the only downside to me is the music which in my ears, as an outsider, sounds quite monotonous and too high pitched. About 7 years ago, I heard a recording by Native Americans, I think, which played even on the pop station, of a guy chanting, and later joined in by a chorus and later by an orchestra. Unfortunately I do not know the name of the song or group, but I thought it was so very beautiful, in spite of it’s melody being monotonous and repetitious.
Once I did ask one of the vendors who had some CDs for sale, if there were any CDs that had fusion music. His answer was of disdain, like I was asking something that was sacrilegious. So, I’m guessing that most NA are greatly opposed to experimentation with their traditional music and the music I heard several years back was possibly an exception that slipped through the cracks.
However, at this last Pow-Wow, a featured Hoop Dance by Miss Indian World, did used techno music and everyone seemed quite pleased, so maybe things are a-changing.
Costumes worn by most of the participants appear to my uneducated eye, as Plains Indian wear, mainly, such as the Sioux. Occasionally dancers from other areas of the United States will participate wearing their own tribal costume, such as the Navaho or East Coast Indians. Once a woman from a California tribe wore what resembled a grass woven skull cap and a grass skirt similar to a hula skirt. This year a dancer from the Northwest States wore his tribal costume which was a tall hat made of animal skins and a blanket with their tribal design. Another woman from the Northwest, wore
a conical hat similar to the Thai farmers. In the past, some of the interesting costumes were a beaver or otter head intact, on the head of a young dancer, a chief head-dress, a dancer with a shield made of a turtle shell. In general, the trend is the more colorful and elaborate, the better.
The dancing itself, can be very subtle and also very very vibrant. Was especially fond of what the women danced call the “Crow Hop” which was very lively and resembled animated birds. Another was a butterfly dance, which also captured the essence of a butterfly. For the men, the beautiful and lively dance is the Tall Grass Dance in which there were lots of foot dexterity and twirling. Also are the less serious dances like the shawl dance, in which the men wear the shawl of women, who choose the man whom she wants to dance with it, the two step, which is a couples dance and a group circle dance in which the spectators are invited to join in.
My perennial favorite is the Hoop Dance, in which a dancer uses about 10 Hoops to form various patterns to resemble either animals
or inanimate objects. This is a highly skilled dance requires athletic fitness, body suppleness and artistry.
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