We heard the announcement over the microphone as we arrived at the circle of booths and pulsing drums:
“Where is the little blonde girl who was dancing? We want to honor her with a special dance.”
Little blonde girl? Not exactly what you’d expect to hear at a Native American pow wow.
The announcement repeated several times, and when the little girl’s name was mentioned, I realized I knew the child, as her parents belong to the mission organization my family used to and on whose campus this pow wow, sponsored by Native believers, is held. But I didn’t see her or her family anywhere.
A short while later, while walking around to examine the booths of jewelry, leatherworking, wooden bows and flutes, moccasins and other Native clothing, I saw this little girl, her blonde braids hanging down her back and chubby hand clasped in her mother’s as they hurried toward the drummer’s circle.
Sure enough, soon the MC announced they were going to do a special dance for this child, since she had already joined in a dance earlier of her own accord.
“She’s going Indian—going Native,” he joked.
So she was led out, this little one of three or four. She stood uncertain in her striped sundress in the middle of the grassy circle—until the drums and chanting began again. Then she immediately started to dance, her feet and arms flying in time to the music.
A red blanket was spread on the grass near her.
“Those of you who know why we put a blanket out, you know what to do,” the MC said.
Slowly at first, then more and more, people stepped into the circle. A couple of Anglos, but mostly Native Americans, they dropped their offerings—many of them paper money—onto the blanket for this little girl.
Then several Native dancers in their feathers, fringe, and bells began to dance with and around her. One man in multicolored regalia touched her head and shoulders with the feathers he held. She lifted her arms toward him, whether in confusion or attraction, I couldn’t tell, but they kept dancing, around and around. Together.
And tears sprang to my eyes. What a beautiful picture, I thought, of racial reconciliation.
While pow wows are wonderful celebrations for both participants and observers, I have sometimes felt especially aware of cultural walls while attending them, as I shared in this post a couple of years ago.
But here was a little Anglo girl, some of whose ancestors wreaked untold havoc and heartache on the Native peoples of this land, entering into their celebration and dances with the joyful abandon and clear-seeing eyes of a small child. And being welcomed and embraced by them.
In another dance a bit later, she came alongside an older Native man in heavy fringe and jingled anklets. She reached up and took his hand, and together they danced, the gray braids and the blonde, side by side.
And I got a glimpse of those walls crumbling down.
“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall…” ~ Ephesians 2:14
“…And a little child shall lead them…” ~ Isaiah 11:6
Have you ever been led by a child before? Why do you think they can sometimes reach across walls and barriers we adults struggle with? Please comment and share!
Do you mind telling me more about this powwow. I am moving toward writing a dissertation on contextualized powwows and would love to hear about Jesus Way Powwows that already exist. Thank you so much!
Hi Kiersti and friends! The 18th Annual Pow Wow will be held on our campus in Pasadena this weekend, on Sat March 7th from noon to 9pm and on Sunday March 8th from noon to 6pm. (1539 East Howard Street, Pasadena, CA 91104) The Pow Wow is sponsored by William Carey International University’s collaborating agency, North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies (NAIITS). Please come and welcome our First Nations Friends!
Patty reminded me of your post. This is one of the hardest things about moving from Pasadena. Our daughter would love to be involved this year again. We’ll let her know its this weekend and show her the video from last year. May God receive the Glory He is due.
What a special time that was last year, wasn’t it? Thanks for sharing, Adam! Y’all are missed. 🙂