Tipis were placed around the dance arbor, and their lodge poles white against the sky. The Canadian border is only 50 miles away, and dancers and visitors from Canada mixed with the Blackfeet, and several other tribes. Across the field to the West, the rodeo grounds were filled with Indian cowboys roping, riding, and racing.
On July 10-13, the Blackfeet hosted their 63rd Annual North American Indian Days on their reservation in Browning, Montana. It is one of the largest pow wow celebrations in the region with 579 dancers registered. But, it’s not just about the competition; it’s also about catching up with old friends.
Military leaders from 47 countries around the world were introduced before the start of the Grand Entry. Many leaders were seeing a pow wow for the first time.
In the rodeo arena, a large group of teenage girls from Hawaii were also introduced. It’s that kind of event. It brings visitors from across the nation; in addition to the wide range of Indian nations.
The dance arbor is an open, circular facility with bleacher seating around the dance area and covered for sun protection, which was needed this year as temperatures were in the high 80s. Host drums were Bull Horn and Black Lodge. Four announcers shared the duties: Jay St.Goddard, Russell Red Crow, Eldon Weasel Child, and Reuben Little Head.
Throw in a parade, golf and softball tournaments, horse racing and a hand game tournament, and it makes for a busy weekend. There was even a walk/race and a horseshoe tournament.
Browning is in a beautiful region with Glacier National Park forming the western border of the Blackfeet reservation. Glacier’s peaks, valleys, and lakes were the summer home for tribal members for thousands of years and huge herds of buffalo ranged here and in the rolling country where Browning now sits.
This is horse country and was immediately evident at the beginning of North American Indian Days. Herds of horses were run through town with riders keeping them moving at a gallop. The parade emphasized the importance of horses to the Blackfeet people. Many were ridden bareback and riders ranged from elders to small youngsters. Two young women on horseback pulled travois, the old time method of transporting tipis and other items from campsite to campsite. Other parade entries were decorated with buffalo hides in tribute to their historical importance to the tribe. It’s no wonder that rodeo is big in these parts with the abundance of horses. The rodeo also offered all the major events for men and women.
Many of Indian country’s top cowboys were signed up. Crowds were numerous, not only for the final rounds but during the elimination rounds leading up to the finals.