We went to the Mid-America All Indian Center in Wichita, Kansas, which is a community center and Indian Museum. The museum highlights accomplishments of Indians from the Kansas area, such as movie star Wes Studi, and artist Blackbear Bosin. The museum displayed a lot of his works.
By chance the Wichita Kansas Inter Tribal Warriors Society was having their annual Pow Wow. Pow Wows are Indian Celebrations of community and spirituality, featuring Indian dancing. A group of men, called singers, sit around a large oval drum and bang the drum while chanting the particular song to which the red-man danced.
We attending the entire 6 hour Pow Wow, and to me every “song” sounded exactly the same (oui ya ya ya, oui ya ya ya). I was assured that each song was in fact quite different.
The Pow Wow is divided into two sessions. The day session and the evening session. The first session is Gourd Dancing. The Gourd dance is a ceremonial dance that pays homage to the Indian veterans and leaders and always precedes the evening portion of the Pow Wow. The Gourd Dance is primarily a man’s dance. The regalia worn by a gourd dancer is not elaborate, and usually consists of a long sleeve shirt, pants, a gourd sash, and a rattle. The Gourd Rattle is not a gourd, but is instead a tin or silver cylinder filled with beads on a beaded handle.
A break was taken just before sunset for the Tribal Members to have dinner. To our surprise, we were invited to join them. It was a simple dinner of corn or barley soup with meat, and some sort of flat bread. All was prepared on the premises. Since this is a smoke-free facility, there was no smoking of the peace pipe.
During the break we went to view the “Keeper of the Plains” sculpture by Blackbear Bosin, which is a 44-foot tall steel sculpture standing at the point where the Big and Little Arkansas rivers join together in downtown Wichita to form the Arkansas River. It has become the symbol of Wichita City.
The evening session of the Pow Wow was a more colorful dance of both men and women in what we consider Indian War dancing.
I found it interesting, that no time, either in the museum, or during the Pow-wow, did they refer to themselves as “Native Americans”. They are “Indians”, or “American Indians”.
In the hall they had displayed all the Tribal Flags. I liked this one: