BISMARCK (UTN) – Beautiful powwow weather, world-class guests and top-quality competition highlighted the 45th Annual United Tribes International Powwow, “Home of the Champions.” The gathering was held September 4-7 at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, and featured contestants from 70 different tribes and 14 states and Canadian provinces.
In the contest competition, the group Iron Boy won the singing contest; and twenty-four drums performed their best songs for the 581 dancers during the powwow. The total prize money awarded for all 25 singing and dancing categories was just under $115,000, the highest amount offered in the event’s history.
Thanks to a generous donation from the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara Nation, this years contest prize money increased by $18,000. The winning drum took home $7,000.
The powwow’s theme, “We Are All Related” was universally embraced by participants and visitors. Distinguished visitors to the event included Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota); former vice presidential candidate on the Green Party ticket, Winona LaDuke (White Earth Anishinaabe); and WNBA All-Star MVP Shoni Schimmel (Umatilla Confederated Tribes) of the Atlanta Dream. Miss Indian Nations, Alexandria Alvarez (Shoshone-Bannock), Fort Hall, ID, sponsored a mother and daughter dance special and give-away to mark the end of her one-year reign as a cultural ambassador.
Eight-year-old Amani Netterville of Theodore Jamerson Elementary School sang the national anthem sweetly. And Keith Big Crow (Three Affiliated) made a repeat appearance this year, playing the Anthem “Jimi Hendrix-style” on his Fender Stratocaster electric guitar.
Fifty-seven volunteers, including 26 from the local AETNA office, served a free roast buffalo meal on powwow’s closing day for more than 2,000 visitors, singers and dancers. The buffalo was donated by the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, one of the college’s five governing tribes, and presented by United Tribes.
PARADE OF CHAMPIONS
The “Parade of Champions” began with beautiful weather and many spectators along its route through downtown Bismarck.
The parade’s grand marshal was Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Mills, accompanied by his wife Pat. And at least 221 dancers, five drums, and 25 registered entries from various tribes, local businesses, non-profit groups, and political parties participated in the parade.
The Best Overall Entry/Theme went to MHA’s Brian White Tail and Aletha Morsette; Lakho Piyhapi Wahohip (Lakota Language Nest) was named Best Youth/Cultural Group and was accompanied by Lakota-speaking preschoolers; Best Horse Group was the Heart Roping Club with carts pulled by Shetland ponies; and the Mandaree Drum claimed the award for Best Drum/Dancer entry.
The Classtiques Car Club and Stan Puklich Chevrolet volunteered their time and beautiful cars.
Volunteers and staff did an excellent job of helping present culture and diversity to the town audience as an outreach of the powwow.
Billy Mills inspired a gathering of 90 runners with the memory of his 1964 win in Tokyo as he fired the starting gun for two events in the THUNDERBIRD Powwow Run. The only American to ever win Olympic Gold in the 10,000-meter race was encouraging and approachable. He signed autographs and posed with runners for photos before the events.
Kyle Downs of Bismarck ran a personal best of 32:10, winning the 10K race, while Andy Nielsen, also of Bismarck, turned in a 17:01 to claim the 5K honors. Top female finishers were: Camie Anderson, 41:16, fourth overall in the 10K and Jessilynn Long Feather, 23:25, 11th overall in the 5K.
The strong and animated voice of announcer Vince Byel of Minnesota brought spirit and energy to the event, complimenting the commentary and interpretation of co-announcer Butch Felix. Other powwow head staff included, Arena Director Charles Lasley (WI); Head Singing Judge John “Shorty” Bearstail (ND); Head Men’s Dance Judge Trae Little Sky (SD); and Head Women’s Dance Judge Tonja Jo Hall (ND).
Ernie Boss Calf Ribs provided the ground blessing for Lone Star Arena, and delivered Blackfeet and Lakota prayers and prayer-songs throughout the event.
All first place dance category and singing contest winners received a jacket adorned with the logo showing the “We Are All Related” artwork of artist Wallace “Butch” Thunder Hawk, Jr., as well as a medal and cash. Second-to-fourth place winners received cash and medals inscribed with the “Home of the Champions” slogan.