“Spending the last week here made me realize the impact that the Calgary Stampede can have. So thank you for coming out to experience our culture,” 2017 Indian Princess Savanna Sparvier said in her welcome address during the Adult Pow Wow Grand Entry.

Photo above was taken during the Flag Song, sung by White Rock. The RCMP has always been in attendance as they were present from the very first day of the signing of Treaty 7.

The Adult Pow Wow competition features numerous dances from both men and women. To start off the competition, and to ease the crowd into what they were about to experience, Pow Wow emcee Michael Meguinis invited all dance competitors, and anyone from the audience, to participate in an intertribal dance. Intertribal dances feature dancers from all nations and tribes.

One audience member having a great time during the intertribal dance.

Along with the dancers being judged, the drummers are also in their own competition. The drummers provide the music for the dancers to dance to. They provide the beat, and one of the specifics the dancers are judged on is how well they keep the beat. This means that the judges watch for their feet to hit the ground at the exact moment the drummers sound the drum.

This dancer displays fancy footwork, while keeping the beat! You have to move quickly to achieve this.

Other than keeping the beat the dancers are judged on their grace, presentation, ability and endurance. Interpretive member of Indian Village, Hayley Starlight, shed some light on the different types of dances. “There are many dances for both men and women to compete in in the Pow Wow,” Starlight shared. Starlight herself grew up in Indian Village and used to be a jingle dress dancer.

Photo Credit: Shaun Robinson / Calgary Stampede

Haley Starlight explaining the Pow Wow Competition. The Indian Village Interpreters are available for any guest to approach and ask questions!

“Jingle dress dancers use the dance as a prayer to ask their ancestors for help in healing,” Starlight continued. “The bells were thought to help capture medicines. One story has been passed down that there was a sick woman who received guidance from the Creator to make a dress for her granddaughter. During the time she was making the dress, the woman heard the jingle sounds from the dress and felt stronger and stronger.”

Other dances include:

  • Hoop dance – which is part of this year’s TransAlta Grandstand Show – where the dancer makes different shapes using the hoops. The dancer conveys people, animals and such as bulls, with the hoops. This dance is a form of performance arts.
  • Grass dance – this was used traditionally to help flatten very tall grasses when nations would move camp. Once the grass is flattened they were able to hold Pow Wows and ceremonies.
  • Prairie Chicken dance – this is another dance used for healing as prairie chickens are believed to hold healing powers. In this dance, the dancer moves like the chicken and uses bells to capture healing medicines.
  • Fancy Shawl dance – audiences watching this dance will right away recognize birds through this dance, such as eagles, as the dancers imitate their movements and spread their arms as if they are soaring.
  • Traditional dance – this dance tells the story of hunting through dance, and is the first dance women were allowed to perform.

Congratulations to all of the competitors and winners – and to the audience members who participated. The Pow Wow dance competitions are an annual event at Indian Village throughout the 10 days of Stampede so be sure to come back in 2018!