Red Earth is an event dear to my heart. It is an organization committed to promoting the rich traditions of American Indian arts and cultures through their museum and fine art markets. For 30 years, the Red Earth Festival has showcased Native American artists and dancers during its 3-day event in Oklahoma City. I was honored to be awarded 1st Place in Contemporary Pottery this year for my lidded jar titled, Terrapin Races Rabbit II.
A Pow Wow, sometimes called a Festival, is a gathering of Native American tribes to celebrate with singing and dancing to honor their cultures. A Grand Entry is held at the beginning of each session – usually one on Friday night, two on Saturday (noon and after dinner), and one on Sunday afternoon. The dance arena is first blessed and is considered sacred ground for the duration of the celebration.
Eagle Staff Leads the Grand Entry
followed by Flag Bearers carrying the American flag, state & tribal flags, and often the MIA-POW flag. Everyone is asked to stand and dancers are reminded they are “dancing for their ancestors”. The procession continues in a circle around the arena, adding ever more dancers, matching their steps to the beat of the drums. Once all the dancers are in the arena, a song honors the Eagle Staff and flags. A prayer is offered, followed by a victory song while the Eagle Staff and flags are placed in their standards.
Each group of dancers is led by a Head Dancer, who represents their particular style of dancing. Head Dancers are selected for his or her knowledge of tribal traditions and customs, as well as their own dance reputation. It is an honor to be chosen Head Dancer, to serve as leader and model for the rest of the dancers. Our Head Dancer was Carol Ayers (in yellow), a fellow Choctaw artist, friend, and the one who mentored me through the Grand Entry process. Her last words to us as we entered the arena were, “Hold your heads high ladies, we are dancing for our ancestors!” And we did.
Dancing for My Mom!
Tears of joy streamed down my face, yet I couldn’t stop smiling. I was dancing in the Grand Entry at Red Earth – for my mom! My dress was a traditional Choctaw dress with apron, hand made by fellow Choctaw artist Judy Davis.
Notice the diamond pattern, found throughout Choctaw culture. It is the Choctaw symbol for respect for nature and is found somewhere on almost every piece I make. The exquisite beaded collar and earrings were created especially for me by Chester Cowen, fellow Choctaw artist and tribal historian. The feather fan I carried was purchased in the Badlands of South Dakota and hand made by a Navajo artist. My shawl with the 18″ fringe was purchased in Oklahoma.