Close to 40 years ago in an area north of my hometown Dunseith, North Dakota -- which is home to descendants of the great chiefs Little Shell and Red Bear -- a small pow-wow was conducted on a daily basis by my grandparents Francis and Rose Cree. Both had ties to both chiefs: my grandfather has a direct lineage to Little Shell and my grandmother's family was heavily acquainted with Red Bear.
Years later this same area would become the location of many ceremonies and traditional happenings.
These same events included many relatives and friends of the Machipiness, Standing Chief, Greatwalker, Day, Wanapi and Johnson families. Often a good traditional meal and the sharing of songs were conducted a under a shaded area which was prepared by the younger people.
Both my grandparents spent much of their lives as traditional leaders and interestingly they would often do what they could to preserve our heritage. There were times when I observed both staying outdoors during the summer months. During these times we often sat around the drum and sang quite a few songs as the evening sun lowered itself to the west of us.
My grandfather was once the chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. In the early 1960's while chairman, he met with John F. Kennedy when John was president. He also became associated with many congressional leaders throughout the years. Most interestingly, he performed many ceremonies at special events in Washington and elsewhere.
My grandfather was also a traditional pipe carrier, His position of being a carrier sometimes meant he had to help people when they needed it. This was something he done most of his life. In my opinion, he was awarded more than 80 years of life in exchange for his generosity. My grandmother was also a caregiver. She too, lived a long life.
My grandparent's "social events" and what we call "pow-wows" are something I would often think about.
At an early age I was told many stories and learned quite a bit about our culture. Pow-wows and ceremonial events were often discussed as we sat around the drum and sang traditional songs. There was so much to learn back then, today I can remember short versions of what I was told.
The drum I remember is very important to our culture. Without it we couldn't have pow-wows and ceremonial activities. At times it was used for a variety of reasons like when our warriors went to fight a battle, social gatherings and traditional events.
There was also the etiquette of a pow-wow event. Be respectful, especially to the elders, always behave accordingly and no use of alcohol or drugs during a pow-wow. These were just a few social behavior teachings we had to respect.
As we move towards the summer pow-wow season we have to remember the teachings our elders have laid upon us. It is important we remind others to be respectful of our culture and ask them to remind others.
Today, I am one of the luckier generations who have benefited from tribal elders when it comes to learning our traditional ways of doing things. Pow-wows was an important aspect when I was growing up and it helped me show the respect, dignity and appreciation I would have towards my own heritage.
Attending a pow-wow today will bring back memories....most importantly it will be a time to reunite and socialize with old friends. It would also be a way of preserving our rich heritage.
Delvin Cree is a columnist/writer for The Tribal Independent,
an alternative on-line news source for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.
Cree is also a contributor to the tribe's newspaper The Turtle Mountain Times
and Indianz.com, a national news source
for American Indians.
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