Native Americans in elaborate, colorful costumes decked out in feathers, sequins, bells and fringe dazzled crowds at the Four Winds Intertribal Society’s 21st annual powwow this weekend in Killeen.
Dance competitions ran all day Saturday and Sunday at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, while on the outskirts of the event, vendors sold native-inspired wares, including beaded décor, fur-decked clothing and native art.
In the arena circle, the surrounding audience watched intently as Indians chanted and yipped to thumping drum beats during the sacred gourd dance.
The competing northern and southern drums served as symbols for the northern and southern regions of the country. The drums are essential, representing the heartbeat of the people and Mother Earth.
Following the gourd dance, veterans were honored with a march during the grand entrance Sunday. The grand entrance kicks off the individual dance competitions. Prize money was awarded to the top dancers in each category.
Tiny Tots, one of the most popular dance categories, showcased dancers ages 5 and under. Other competition categories are organized by gender and the type of dress worn for that specific dance.
The powwow has grown a lot in the past five years that Liz Yankee has been attending, even moving to a larger location in the conference center.
“I like to watch the dancing competitions,” Yankee said. “The ladies’ attire and the pride they take in it” is her favorite part of the powwow, she said.
Her interest stems from her own background, as a woman of Puerto Rican Taino Indian heritage.
Variety of tribes
The powwow is intertribal, meaning there are people representing a variety of tribes from across the country. The goal is to create a space for the Native American community today, said Aaron Pyle, secretary and treasurer of the board of directors of the Four Winds Intertribal Society. He is of the Choctaw tribe.
The powwow awards 12 educational scholarships each year, stressing the importance of education within the native community.
Pyle estimates this year had an even larger turnout than last year’s record 6,000 attendees.
The event is funded in part by the Killeen Arts Commission. The Four Winds Intertribal Society is largely membership-driven. For more information on the society, go to www.fourwindstx.org
In lieu of the admission fee, attendees could donate three canned goods per adult. The goods will be donated to Bell County food service.