Keeping it traditional: 151st White Earth Powwow set for June 14-16
At 150 years and counting, the White Earth Powwow is one of the region's oldest summer celebrations and, as such, it's no surprise that organizers like to keep things traditional.
"It's not a contest powwow," said Missy Fairbanks, one of the event's main organizers this year. "It's traditional, with lots of dancing."
The 151st White Earth Powwow is set to take place next weekend, June 14-16, under the spiritual guidance of the White Earth Reservation pipe carriers, with Vince Beyl and Dennis Hisgun as the masters of ceremonies.
"Vince Beyl is nationally known as an emcee for powwows, and a White Earth local, so we are very blessed to have him with us this year," Fairbanks said.
Beyl and Hisgun will preside over the arena festivities, which get underway Friday, June 14, with the Grand Entry at 7 p.m. Additional Grand Entry ceremonies will take place at 1 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 15, as well as 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 16.
However, even before the festivities begin, there will be a pipe ceremony and blessing of the White Earth powwow grounds at noon on Thursday, June 13. All pipes, people and family flags are welcome.
Other festivities associated with the powwow include the choosing of White Earth's royalty: The Princess and Brave contest gets underway at 8 p.m. Friday, and it's open to all enrolled members and descendants living within 25 miles of the reservation's boundaries. The junior title is open to kids ages 8-12, while the senior title will go to a boy and girl between ages 13-17.
Last year's princesses and braves will be honored one more time on Saturday, June 15, with outgoing brave and outgoing princess special dances to take place as part of the afternoon grand entry festivities.
Saturday's events officially get underway at 10 a.m. with the flag-raising ceremony, and after the Grand Entry at 1 p.m., there will be a community feast at 5 p.m.
"We will serve roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, wild rice, corn, dinner rolls and dessert," Fairbanks said. "It's free and open to the public. The whole pow wow is open to the public — even if you're not a dancer you can come and watch."
In fact, she added, visitors and White Earth residents alike are invited to take part in the dancing as well.
"Tribal people, and even non-natives can come down and join in on the dancing and celebrating with us," Fairbanks said. "You don't need to know the steps, just enjoy it."
There is no admission fee to get into the powwow grounds; the concessions and vendor booths are the only things that aren't completely free, she added. Those booths will include a wide array of native foods, art and craft items.
"We've got some new vendors coming in this year," Fairbanks said. "We'll have fruit kebabs, kettle corn, lemonade, different kinds of jewelry, and lots of other, more traditional stuff ... we're going back to being more traditional this year."
One new addition, however, is the comfortable plush chairs that will be set up for use by the tribal elders.
"We will have some very plush chairs for the elders to enjoy sitting on instead of the uncomfortable bleachers, or not being able to sit anywhere," Fairbanks said. "They're specially decorated chairs, with padding so they'll be comfortable."
As always, however, the music and dancing are the biggest draws, with eye-catching dance regalia ranging from brightly-colored jingle dresses to grass and woodland outfits. Smokytown and Mo Town will serve as the host drums this year, along with local co-host drums Smoky HIlls and Manoomin. Gabe Desrosiers and Lucas Hisgun will share the arena director responsibilities.
About 1,000 dancers and 28 drum groups performed last year, with similar numbers expected again in 2019.
The White Earth Powwow grounds are about 25 miles north of Detroit Lakes, in White Earth. Camping and campfire wood will be available on site for those who want to stay all weekend; security will be there through the weekend, as well. Parking is free and there will be people on hand to direct traffic.
As always, however, the event is alcohol and drug free, so guests are asked not to bring them onto the grounds — and to leave their firearms at home, or in the car.
"There's no alcohol, drugs or guns allowed," said Fairbanks, adding that it's intended to be a fun place for family and friends to gather and enjoy lots of dancing, singing, good food, and even a little shopping.
For more information on the White Earth Powwow, visit the White Earth Nation Facebook page or call Missy Fairbanks at 218-401-0553.