Friends and Relatives,
I would like to acknowledge each of you who were "well wishers"
before my trip to London. It really means a lot that you cared enough to render
your confidence in me as I traveled to England to represent Indian people and
the Oklahoma Historical Society.
The purpose of my visit was to participate in a 3-day international forum
to address the popular cultural movement across Indian country - now known as
"Powwow." The British Museum invited approximately 20 ethnological
scholars, historians, anthropologists and museums representatives to present
papers relating to their research in this area. My topic was THE MEN'S FANCY
Dance for Contemporary Times. I presented my paper on the origin of
this dance through the present, highlighting names, dates and locations for
Respected speakers from across Indian country such as Wallace Coffey,
George Horse Capture, Bea Medicine, Madonna Thunder Hawk, Terry Snowball, Jim
Anquoe, et al., shared first hand knowledge in many different areas. Their
participation offered substantial credibility. Each of these presenters could
attest to, "this is the way it is, because I was there when it
happened!" One discovery that I consider important is that Madonna is one
of the women who originated the Women's Fancy Dance in the early 1960's. This
documented information discounts the "romanticized,
urban myth" that the fancy shawl dance is part of a legend that
came from a butterfly. Madonna's account is only one example of 1st hand
knowledge that was shared at this conference.
At this conference, I learned that powwows have a direct impact on
changing Indian ceremonies, tribalism, lifestyles, socialism, economics,
assimilation and most importantly - the future of Indian people. Our youngest
generation of Indian children and tribes with little or no culture of their own,
are using the "powwow culture" to define their own modern "Indian
traditions." The powwow movement has now spread throughout most of Europe.
Powwows are even held in Russia!
There were a few non-Indian scholars, notably Dr. Clyde Ellis from North
Carolina, who were very accurate - in my opinion. However, through my
observations, I learned that there are a lot of scholars who are teaching "institutionalized
Indian culture" that is demeaning, inaccurate, biased and in
some cases pure opinion. It is these very same professors that are fostering
harmful knowledge and stereotypes to a new generation of knowledge seekers.
The North American Curatorial Staff of the British Museum admitted
knowing little of powwows and sponsored this conference to learn about this
subject. In the audience were scholars, non-American cultural enthusiasts
(sometimes referred to as hobbyists) and a few American Indians who lived in
Europe or traveled from the United States. Everybody in attendance will have
learned something both positive and negative.
Now that I have returned, I wanted you to know the responsibility "we"
have as Indian people. It is of critical importance that our generation make an
all out effort to seek knowledge and preserve the culture we have left as well
as hold individuals accountable for the injustices of false information that
they disseminate about our people. This includes both non-Indians and even some
of our own.
We live in an age of vast information technologies. So let's use them to
our benefit. Tape recorders and video cameras are assessable to all of us.
Please. Make an effort to record someone who you feel has information that need
to be heard and preserved.
is time for Indian people to rise up and tell our own stories about who we