Native American, New Mexico

Plenty at the Powwow

It’s hard to sit still at a powwow when Native people are dancing and drumming. But I did for a while because of the flow of feathers, bells, and ribbons — and the heart-thumping beat.


Outside the arena

The Taos Pueblo Powwow was this weekend. We went Sunday afternoon, which had such a great turnout we had to park our folding chairs well outside the arbor, where a drumming group took precedence, and behind canopies pitched by families. It was as close as we were going to get to the arena. (Number one rule: arrive early at the powwow to get a good spot.)

jeanne begay

Jeanne Begay sells beaded necklaces and bracelets

We sat as Native people moved in a clockwork circle in the arena. Many waited on the sidelines for their turn to compete such as the cluster of little girls sitting near us. I marveled at the diversity in their regalia. (Another rule: don’t call them costumes). Feathers, fabric, beadwork, ribbons, fur, and metal — no two were alike.

But watching the dancing is only part of the experience. This year the powwow had a full outer circle of vendors. Some of the jewelry and goods for sale were touristy stuff, but then there were real craftsmen, mostly from the Four Corners area. I was charmed by the beadwork at one booth to buy a necklace. Jeanne Begay told me it takes her over an hour to make one on a loom — “if there are no distractions.” I paid by check. (Although some vendors take cards, many don’t. So bring cash or checks.)


Fry bread with honey

I did get my annual fix of fry bread, choosing Paulie’s, which had the longest line. The longer the line, the better the food, I figure. The man in front of me ordered $63 worth of fry bread prepared in various ways, such as fry bread with a pork chop and burgers. He told his son, “Today we will eat good.” “You mean I will eat good,” the boy responded.

While I waited for my order, I watched two women inside the booth knead dough, roll them into balls, and flatten them for frying in a cast-iron skillet. I chose plain fry bread. I drizzled mine with honey and ate it in the sun, while the dancers moved around.