Wayáčhi yačhíŋ ye (Will you dance with me)?
Summer is a very special time of year for Indigenous people. The summer solstice is significant in many of our belief systems. It is, essentially, the “new year” for many of the tribal nations in the United States.
Therefore, summer is a time of renewal and celebration, full of ceremony and Wacipi (Pow Wow).
Thinking about what to write for the month of Wípazuka Wasté (June), I reflected on how this summer’s Wacipi are likely to be some of the best in years; because we are finally able to gather with one another after most of last year’s events were canceled.
So, if there was a summer to go check out one of our celebrations, this would be it!
Visitors Are Welcome
I have heard from many non-Indigenous people that they are not sure if they would be allowed at a Wacipi. I am here to spread the word that not only would you be allowed, but you would also be welcomed.
We love to share our culture with others. It is in the spirit of Wacipi to practice generosity, to forge new friendships, and bring joy to others. Overall, the purpose of a Wacipi has always been to bring happiness and healing to all.
Know that if you attend our celebrations, you too are on the minds and hearts of the dancers.
Pow Wows: What to Know
There are some very basic rules of decorum and tips for visitors to know before attending Wacipi. So, here are a few tips:
Do not touch a dancer’s regalia.
The dancers and their loved ones spend months (some even years) hand making the regalia that they wear. Love and intention is put into each stitch, into every row of beadwork, and each inch of the fabric. Touching a dancer’s regalia is believed to have the power to transfer one’s own thoughts and intentions into the materials.
Do not photograph a dancer without their permission, especially children.
Most dancers don’t mind being photographed, but it is respectful to ask permission first.
Don’t refer to a dancer’s regalia as a costume.
Most dancers don’t mind people referring to their regalia as an “outfit.” However, regalia is a the widely accepted term and probably the best one to use.
Be prepared to stand for a while at Grand Entry.
Each dancer who arrives in regalia will follow in behind the Akicita (Veterans/Active Duty Military) until everyone is present in the area. This can sometimes take close to an hour. Then the Akicita will place the flags and eagle staff, while drum groups play honor songs for them.
Something that we are tremendously proud of is being the ethnic minority with the highest rate of military service. We like to make sure that our service members and Vets know that their people are honored to call them our relatives.
If you are invited to dance, please do!
Some songs are referred to as “Intertribal,” and these are intended to be opportunities for anyone to join the dancers in the arena. If someone invites you to dance with them, they will show you what to do. There is no wrong way to do it, just being present in the arena and doing your best to follow along with the beat of the drum is perfect.
And sometimes there will be opportunities for young dancers to show their best moves. Then the crowd is invited to throw cash near their feet to help support them in purchasing materials for their regalia, travel expenses, etc. Know that it is not at all expected to pitch in, but you would be most welcome to if you were so inclined.
Here is a list of some local Wacipis to attend this summer!
Dates: June 25-27
Location: Parshall, ND
Dates: July 16-18
Location: Ball Club, MN
*Second oldest Wacipi in the United States!
Dates: 4th of July weekend
Location: Agency Village, SD
Dates: August 6-8
Location: Twin Buttes, ND
Dates: August 13-15
Location: New Town, ND
Dates: August 20-22
Location: Dunseith, ND
Dates: August 20-22
Location: Shakopee, MN
Labor Day Pow Wow
Dates: September 3-5
Location: Belcourt, ND
*One of the most attended contest Pow Wows in the United States!
Dates: September 10-12
Location: Bismarck, ND