This year, the 39th annual, the intertribal Denver March Powwow in Colorado that typically draws members from more than 80 different tribes and a crowd of 50,000-plus and offers about $50,000 in total prize money will be even better, bigger and with a new audience.
“We try to put our best pow wow each year. Since it is a large event, we try to make it run smoother and more efficient” said Ken LaDeaux, Sicangu/Oglala Lakota, president of Denver March Powow Inc., the group that is organizing the event on March 22 to 24, at the Denver Coliseum.
Compared with other pow wows that are 100 years old, LaDeaux said, the Denver Powwow is still “a relatively new event.”
He said the organizing committee wants to reach out to as many people and is streaming the event on the Internet. “One thing that was beneficial last year—and it will take place again this year—is streaming the pow wow on the Internet,” he said, adding that they want to educate more people and are aware that some may not be able to come because of their work schedule or because they are sick.
“It has always been something for the people to participate in and to maintain our culture. We don’t have the highest prize money but we have a large number of people who come to participate,” he said.
For an event that started as a one-day pow wow meant to teach the youth to sing and dance, it has evolved into a major production, with some 1,300 dancers registered just for the Saturday dance competitions. LaDeaux said they don’t particularly invite drums or single out host drums but groups come to participate anyway.
“It is always a hard guess,” he said, noting that it can go from 20 to 30 drums to over 50 drums. “To me it is equivalent to going to the Super Bowl game and watching the competition."
Dancers come from all over the country and from Canada and Mexico, LaDeux said. According to the pow wow’s website, dancers participate in 30 contest categories for multi-tiered age groups and in dances that include jingle, fancy, traditional, grass, straight, chicken, northern and southern buckskin and cloth.
“It is exciting each year because we do have a different number of specials,” said LaDeaux.
For drummers, for instance, they may each have the chance to win $500 in a series of draws called “Drums-Luck of Draw” in memory of Shirley Smith. Smith was a regular at the pow wow. She was a storyteller and an Arikara elder who walked on last April. LaDeaux said they have decided to honor her in each of the days. Other specials sponsored by families or individuals include several dances such as the “Youth Enrichment” that features young men’s fancy and young women’s fancy shawl. A favorite among the youth is the coronation of the Denver March Powwow Princess. LaDeaux said there are 100 princesses from different tribes who are vying for the top honor.
The head staff tasked to keep the production flowing well and the crowd entertained, include head judges, Clifton Goodwill, Lakota/Dakota/Cree/Ojibwe, a well known grass dancer and George Alexander, Otoe-Missouria/Iowa, a southern fancy feather dancer. Tommy Christian, Assiniboine Sioux, and Lawrence Baker, Hidatsa, were named as masters of ceremonies and Leo “Chico” Her Many Horses, Oglala Lakota, arena director.
Tickets sold at the door are $7 per day; $20 for three-day pass; $3 for elders (60+) and free for ages 6 and under.
For further details, go to the pow wow's official website by clicking here.
Watch video from last year's pow wow here: