The largest powwow draws indigenous dancers to New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Tens of thousands of people gathered in New Mexico on Friday for what organizers are calling the largest powwow in North America.

The annual Gathering of Nations began with a colorful procession of Native American and Indigenous dancers from around the world moving to the beat of traditional drums as they filled an arena at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds.

“We’re ready to rock this house,” the announcer proclaimed after introducing drum groups, including those from South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation.

During the event, the dancers slowly weave their way towards the center of the venue one at a time, creating a spectacular performance. This is the 40th year of the gathering, which has grown from humble beginnings in 1983 to a massive celebration where indigenous peoples showcase their cultures through dance and song competitions.

Dale Metallic has been dancing for about 30 years since he was a teenager, but this was the first year that he was able to convince his father, Sibugug, to join him in the competition. They set out from the Mi’gmaq Nation of eastern Canada.

“It’s a celebration,” said the younger Metallic.

“It’s in our blood,” added his father. “It’s about language, culture, family.”

and style.

Contestants wear feathery ruffles, suede dresses, fancy shawls, and beaded headpieces and hairpieces. Many of the dancers’ elaborate outfits are detailed with hand-sewn designs.

Twelve-year-old Violet Sutherland showed off intricate beadwork and a chic scarf as she twirled under the welcome sign while her mum snapped photos. They traveled from Ontario, Canada so Violet could fulfill a wish made the previous year.

“I’ve always wanted to go and see everyone dance,” Violet said, nodding at the colorful Aztec dancers performing nearby.

Violet, who is Ojibwe and Cree and the youngest of three siblings, practices every day and keeps a tradition alive like her parents and grandparents did before her.

As spectators and competitors paused for roasted corn, fried bread and latte, drumbeats echoed outside the arena.

In addition to the dance and singing competitions, more than two dozen contestants from the United States and Canada compete for the title of Miss Indian World. The winner will be crowned on the final evening of the powwow and will spend the next year serving as a cultural ambassador as she travels to events and other powwows.

Several hundred Native American tribes across the United States and First Nations in Canada are represented at the gathering, which has become Albuquerque’s second largest annual festival, raising more than $20 million for the local economy each year.

Organizers held virtual gatherings in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. This is the second face-to-face meeting since health regulations were relaxed.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

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