Embrace Native American culture during the Osage River Pow Wow this weekend

Head Gourd Grant Phelan, Head Man Dancer Justin Stegeman and Mike Thompson lead the procession around the circle during a past Osage River Pow Wow’s grand entry.

Head Gourd Grant Phelan, Head Man Dancer Justin Stegeman and Mike Thompson lead the procession around the circle during a past Osage River Pow Wow’s grand entry.

A few years back, Janet Dudley was emailed story from a friend about a couple who attended a powwow. They had been driving down the road and saw a sign that read, “Pow Wow.” They didn’t know what it was, so they decided to go found out. They followed the signs, paid their way in, heard the drums and made their way to the circle.

“They were just overwhelmed. They knew that is where they needed to be and thought it was a beautiful experience,” said Dudley. “Now, the story gets better.”

For the last 13 years, Dudley, along with a small but hard-working committee, has organized the Osage River Pow Wow in Eldon. During a recent powwow in Eldon she had a couple come up to her and tell her the exact same story. However, those persons were the ones who discovered the Osage River Pow Wow.

“They were driving through town, saw the sign that read, ‘Pow Wow,’ paid their admission and enjoyed this event. That is amazing,” she added.


Courtesy of Sherry Monroe

Ladies cloth dancer Tina Phelan, left, and Lady’s Buckskin dancer Christine Blair participate in a dance during a past Osage River Pow Wow in Eldon. (THIS PHOTO IS NOT FOR SALE).

With the 13th Annual Osage River Pow Wow scheduled for June 15-16 at the Miller County Fairgrounds in Eldon, Dudley and her fellow committee member Sherry Monroe hope more interested community members will experience this true celebration of Native American culture and intertribal union that is open for the public to experience.

“When you come to an intertribal powwow, like ours, there will be times they will ask the public to come out and dance. Come out and dance during those dances; learn what there is to be taught,” Monroe said. “It is a lot of fun.”

“The Osage River Powwow is a celebration, a family reunion and a community event,” Dudley added.

The Osage River Pow Wow will be held from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, June 15 and from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, June 16 at the Miller County Fairgrounds in Eldon. The public is welcome, as well as all drums and dancers are welcome to attend. They are encouraged to bring chairs.

According to PowWows.com, powwows are the Native American people’s way of meeting together to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships, and making new ones. It is also a time method to renew Native American culture and preserve the rich heritage of American Indians. In fact, the term “powwow” derives from the North Eastern Woodland word belonging to the Narragansett Language and closets English translation meaning “meeting,” according to Jamie Oxendine’s “History of the ‘Powwow’” article published on PowWows.com.

Sponsored by the Circle of the Red Road, the Osage River Pow Wow sees Native American culture prevalent at its annual celebration with countless tribes represented each year. There are far too many to name, however, Dudley and Monroe said there have been participants from the Apache, Cheyenne, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Osage, Omaha, Aztec, Choctaw, Blackfeet, Sioux, Tuscarora and Lakhota tribes come to the intertribal powwow.

“It is an intertribal powwow. There are different tribes from different nations that have attended our event,” Monroe explained. “We have people that have come up from Hawaii to dance. They have a different grass dance they do that is not the same kind of grass dance that is done in other areas of the country. It is amazing.”


Courtesy of Sherry Monroe

Brian Whitaker participates in the Hoop Dance during a past Osage River Pow Wow in Eldon. (THIS PHOTO IS NOT FOR SALE)

In fact, the grass dance is one of many dances guests to the Osage River Pow Wow will see during its 13th annual event. According to Monroe and Dudley, some grass dances were down at the beginning of a powwow, typically by young men, to stomp down the entire arena, which is blessed and honored as sacred ground for the powwow. Monroe added that whether the dancers did this for their own tribe or an intertribal powwow, it would also ensure the elderly, young children and women coming into the circle would not fall or trip.

“Sometimes certain powwows will still have the grass dance first to honor that tradition,” Dudley added.

Following the grand entry, where members of the Pow Wow head staff present flags and formally begin the event, many additional dances will take place. Dudley and Monroe said there are some dances that are for men, women and for both. The jingle dress dance is a healing dance, where the young ladies often pray while dancing and wear regalia that is adorned with special items that make jingling sounds while they participate in this special event. Other women also participate in the Fancy Shawl Dance, which is also known as the Butterfly Dance.

“The way the ladies move around the arena circle is as if they are gliding across the ground and they move their shawls up and down as if they are wings,” Monroe described.

There is also the Ladies’ Cloth Dances, with northern and southern styles, as well as similar buckskin cloth dances. Monroe and Dudley said this is more of a walking dance.

For the men, the Men’s Straight Dance is similar to the Ladies’ Shawl Dance, where they are more walking around the arena to the beat of the drums. There are also both northern and southern styles of the Men’s Traditional Dance, however the dancers are more actively bouncing. In addition, their regalia also has one bustle in the back.

“That dance is also known as the warrior dance,” Monroe added.

Dudley said the Men’s Fancy Dance is very lively, with the men’s regalia has two bustles (one on the shoulder and one in the back). The hoop dance is another dance that is popular at the powwow.

A very significant dance is the Gourd Dance. Dudley and Monroe explained this dance honors veterans and has veterans participating. It is also to honor elders in the tribe or at the powwow.

“It is part of the blessing of the arena, as well,” Monroe said. “During the time when you have gourd dancers, typically no pictures are allowed. They wear many sacred objects on them, so no picture taking respects their regalia and the dancers.”

Dudley added the gourd dancers will wear a blanket with blue and red parts; the red is worn over the dancer’s heart and the blue hangs down over one shoulder. Also, during the dance, if an eagle feather falls, spectators may see other dancers gathering around it to protect it. That eagle feather represents a fallen soldier.


Courtesy of Sherry Monroe

Charley Lowery, left, and his son, CJ, participate in the men’s traditional dance during a past Osage River Pow Wow in Eldon. (THIS PHOTO IS NOT FOR SALE)

“An eagle flies higher than any other bird, so it is respected. If they do not completely stop the dancing, they will wait until the song ends. Then, no pictures and no talking are allowed. The dancer will come over the where the others have protected the feather and request the arena director and a veteran who fought in a foreign war to come into the circle,” Monroe explained. “Typically, the person who helped protect the feather first – depending on the tribe’s beliefs – can keep the feather. However, in most cases, the dancer will give the feather back to the dancer who dropped it. Then, in return, that dancer will give the protector or protectors something in return such as money, sweet grass, etc.”

Whether it is specific dances or others, members of the Osage River Pow Wow can be seen in the arena dancing or leading other activities during the weekend event. The Head Staff includes: Host Drum, Young Bucks; Head Man Dancer, Justin Stegeman; Head Lady Dancer, Wendi Langreder; Master of Ceremonies (MC), Lance Cully; Arena Director Jerrald Braiuca; and Head Gourd, Grant Phelan.

With these traditional and meaningful dances to view, the public can also participate in certain dances at the powwow, as well, such as the round dance or blanket dance. Plus, there are many activities guests will enjoy at the Osage River Pow Wow such as Native American food and crafts, a variety of vendors showcasing many different wares and handmade items, and visits with special guests such as Larry Sellers, an actor best known for playing Cloud Dancing on the television series, “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” Plus, guests to the Osage River Pow Wow can witness some important ceremonies such as the introduction of Monroe’s 3-month-old grandson – Thomas Conner Stegeman – into the circle during this year’s event.

“Honor, Respect, Tradition and Generosity.” These are the fundamental values common to Native Americans across North America, according to Oxendine’s article. As in many of today’s powwows, the Osage River Pow Wow brings these ideals to its intertribal celebration. While Dudley and Monroe give sound advice to powwow newcomers to not touch a dancer’s or individual’s regalia and always ask to take a photograph in case of interfering with beliefs or sacred items they are wearing, they also invite the public to delve into the powwow experience.

“Take a look at what the vendors have to offer, walk around and see what is there to put your hands on, touch and ask questions about,” Monroe said. “Then go up to the dancers and talk to them. They will have no problem talking with you and would enjoy it. Most importantly, be respectful, learn and have fun.”

Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for children ages 4-12, and free for children ages 3 and younger. No alcohol, firearms, drugs or bad attitudes are permitted, and pets must be kept on leashes at all times. No raffles or specials without prior approved by the committee are allowed, and the committee is not responsible for accidents, thefts or damage.

For more information, call Janet Dudley at 573-369-2710 or email oldjed@hughes.net, or visit the event’s website at www.osageriverpowwow.com.


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