MONTROSE – This weekend, North American tribes will congregate here from around the West — in the bright and traditional dress of their cultures — for a weekend of dancing and celebration.
"This is traditionally the Uncompahgre land," event coordinator and Ute Roland McCook said. "We bring people here and celebrate their traditional ways and their people. And it is my aim to bring Indian awareness to the community, as [these are] the former lands of the Ute."
The community is welcome to join an expected 30 tribes, with about 140 dancers, this weekend for the annual Montrose Indian Nations Powwow at Friendship Hall.
"The original powwows began back East when (Native American) people started negotiating with non-Indians over land," McCook said. "Now, it's a gathering to celebrate our traditional ways, meet people and learn from one another. It's a social gathering, where people come to dance on their former lands."
The event kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, with a gathering and honoring of veterans — both Native American and non, and from all wars, he said.
"Native Americans have always included honoring of veterans because of our involvement in the services," McCook said. "But today, we honor all, regardless of race."
At 6 p.m. Friday, veterans will be among those who lead the three-day event with the Grand Entry, which concludes with a special honor song that gives thanks to the veterans.
Then the competitions, drums and dances begin.
The dances start with the "tiny tots," who get only one dance during the powwow, but which is an introduction into a lifestyle of remembering their culture through powwows that will continue into their older age, McCook said.
Other age categories include both male and female dances in youth, adults and “the golden age.”
Dances include “the fancy dance,” where competitors wear elaborate regalia made of brilliant colors and ornaments. This dance requires the most athletic of competitors because of the fast and fancy footwork required.
The adults perform traditional and “straight” dances, and a red eagle feather worn during the traditional dance connotes those who have been injured in battle. While the traditional dance tells the story of the war party, the straight dance tells the story of the hunt; regalia may include breastplates made of bones.
One of the women's competitions is the jingle dance, where the side steps from the dancers make the dress a part of the music.
Another element to a powwow are the drums. There is one host drum group — this year it is War Dance, from the Navajo Nation — which plays the event's important songs. The number of drum groups that attend signify the success of a powwow, and last year, eight groups were in attendance. McCook expects that many will attend again this year. The groups compete against each other for prize money.
Unlike the former Delta Council Tree Powwow, the Montrose Indian Nations Powwow invites all tribes to the event, and people travel from as far as Kansas and Washington state to represent their people.
Local Azteca dancers will diversify the powwow this year. Their regalia — much different than Native American dress — represents their Inca, Maya and Aztec ancestry from Mexico, McCook said. These dancers take to the floor at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22.
Saturday will have two Grand Entries, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday's Grand Entry is at 1 p.m.
Throughout the weekend, Friendship Hall will be filled with both Native American and non-Native American vendors, selling everything from jewelry to food. Last year, there were more than 40 vendors.
Entry fees are $5 for adults and $3 for children.