Pow Wow drums & a pickle

Grand Entry...the Eagle Staffs

Baraga Pow-Wow, 2010. Thirty second annual Keweenaw Bay Maawanji’iding at the Ojibwa Campground. 

Theme:  Honoring our Legacy. 

Shadows of regalia and light in the trees


Kiah and I drove over Saturday afternoon.  She wanted especially to connect with a couple of friends who would be at the Pow Wow. 

Last year I wrote deeply spiritual blogs called If you listen to the Pow Wow drums… you will never be the same and Farewell, Pow Wow.  Until next year… 

It must have been sunnier weather last year, because the photos this year proved more challenging.  The sacred dancing circle beneath the pines filtered sunlight on the dancers.  (Just checked.  Nope, that sunnier weather excuse can’t be used.  It rained last year.  Hmmm….) 

Lots of people enjoyed the Pow Wow photos and posts from last year.  They wrote to say how they inspired them, how they moved their hearts and spirits. 

But one native fella wrote to tell me that I was a crazy white person with no knowledge of Pow Wows at all.  He said all my romantic-spiritual talk was just the garble of a white “wanna-be”.  As in–“wanna be Native”.  He objected to the romanticizing of the native way of life, the “appropriation of the culture by non-natives”.  He said he has lived in a white culture his whole life and would not romanticize it.  He said that the Pow Wow is not necessarily a spiritual event and asked, “Are you serious?” 

Brightly-colored dancer enters the ring to dance

I calmly and compassionately–hopefully compassionately–responded to him: 

You may be right.  I appreciate your insights.  I do tend to romanticize everything, white culture, all cultures, everything.  That may be my nature.  Most of my friends kind of expect it by now.  My native friends who read the blog said they liked it very much, and passed it along to many of their friends.  But I suppose others felt the same way you do.  I actually have gone back to the Pow Wow every year for 22 years to give thanks to the people and everything they taught me on this spiritual journey.  I understand that it’s not necessarily spiritual, but it was for me.  So, I must say I was serious, truly so, but can see your point of view.  Thank you for sharing,  Kathy 

Children dancing in the circle

It is good when we can share our different perspectives and reach some sort of understanding.  No matter if we are of different races, tribes, cultures, sexual orientations, political beliefs. 

If we sit down and talk face-to-face, being as honest and vulnerable as possible, we can often find common understanding.  Perhaps an agreement to see the world differently…but an understanding beyond initial reactionary disagreement. 

Not always, but often, this happens. 

Jingle dress dancers

In certain sacred dances at the Pow Wow, we are asked to put away our cameras.  I usually look carefully around the circle to determine if it’s appropriate to take photos.  It is challenging sometimes to know.  Some deeply spiritual people do not want to be photographed.  

Sometimes, in life, it is hard to gauge what to do.  One must always consult one’s heart.  And, even then, others might disagree with the heart’s opinion… 

Shawl dancers

Kiah and I enjoyed watching the dancers.  

We listened to the sacred prayers and blessings, then opted to leave.  It was a short visit to the Pow Wow this year. 

White haired grandmother

Perhaps next year it will be longer… 

Pickle girl

And here is the promised “Pickle Girl”!  I asked permission from her mama for this photo.  Isn’t she cute?  Isn’t the pickle almost as big as she is? 

Simple sharing between different tribes.

I love the way children so often share of themselves so beautifully, effortlessly.  Here is a pickle.  Want one?  

I don’t care, the little girl seems to say, what color you are.  I don’t care if you make mistakes.  I don’t care about anything except…want to share a pickle?  Here!  Isn’t it good?

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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27 Responses to Pow Wow drums & a pickle

  1. Robin says:

    Love, love, love the pickle girl! Especially the sharing. 😀

  2. Susan D says:

    I love the Pickle Girl, too – the juice running down her chin and neck … and it looks like 2 seeds stuck to her skin in the first shot… priceless. Thank you, especially, for your expressions in your last 2 paragraphs … 😀

    • Kathy says:

      Yes, indeed, Susan, she was a pickle mess! I am glad you resonated with both the photo and the message. And just think, if you went to the Pow Wow you could have had a pickle that big too!

  3. barb says:

    The Grandmother and the Pickle Girl are opposite ends of the same spectrum – both made my heart flutter and melt.

    • Kathy says:

      Barb…mmmm, I too loved the grandmother. She looked like a floating spirit as she danced. Opposite ends of the spectrum–good observation.

  4. Dawn says:

    Wonder why I never heard of this when I was living up there? Probably selective listening on my part. Too bad.

    Also loved the pickle girl and her friend!

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, I think you would like the Pow Wow. It is very colorful and fascinating and interesting. I’m sure it was going on when you lived up here. I started going back in the mid 80’s…

  5. “It is good when we can share our different perspectives and reach some sort of understanding. No matter if we are of different races, tribes, cultures, sexual orientations, political beliefs.”


    “Sometimes, in life, it is hard to gauge what to do. One must always consult one’s heart. And, even then, others might disagree with the heart’s opinion…”

    yes, Yes, YES! And another hearty YES for Pickle Girl’s perspective:

    “I don’t care, the little girl seems to say, what color you are. I don’t care if you make mistakes. I don’t care about anything except…want to share a pickle? Here! Isn’t it good?”

    FANTASTIC post, Kathy – THANK YOU!

    • Kathy says:

      Mornin’, Laurie! I liked writing this post…trying to describe that tension of trying to get along with others in life…others who may look at things differently. And yet, can it be as simple as: wanna share a pickle? And not even words! Sticking out a pickle and the other person taking a bite… Thank you for liking this.

  6. flandrumhill says:

    Kathy, so much in life is up to individual interpretation. However, if you are indeed a crazy white woman, then from my perspective that’s good news, because that means I have company 🙂

    It surprises me that the native fella considered the pow wow non-spiritual. According to Wikipedia…

    “The word derives from the Narragansett word powwaw, meaning “spiritual leader”.

    • Kathy says:

      Oh yeah, Amy-Lynn, I’m a crazy white woman. Actually, I was deeply involved with the natives here for about seven years in the 80’s and 90’s. They shared so much with me. And I am so grateful.

      Another native shared with me that when you grow up going to Pow Wows sometimes they mean more like the place where you got your first kiss, the place where you played on the playground, the place where you ran under the bleachers.

      Thank you for that defintion of PowWow. It’s all kind of fascinating…

  7. patty sue says:

    Such beautiful photographs Kathy! I love the little girl with the large pickle! She has a beauty beyond just beautiful! Also so beautiful to see her sharing with her friend!

    Having raised a child ‘of color’ … I have learned that until their society/parents/teachers tell them that different colored skin is ‘an issue’ and/or ‘strange’ … they don’t see it. They see each other – children – playmates – equals. A lesson they as children can teach us …

    • Kathy says:

      Patty Sue, wouldn’t it be lovely if we could reach the stage in our society where skin color never becomes an issue? Where differences of any sort don’t become an issue? I suppose that is a pipe dream…by my heart yearns for that day.

  8. Cindy Lou says:

    Well said, sweetie…..if only we could all keep our hearts as open as they were when we were children. It is good to look at life with the perspective of other cultures and learn whatever it is that is meaningful to our lives. One of the greatest blessings of being an Air Force brat was the gift of living in and amongst many cultures…my folks always made it a priority to experience what we could.

    My favorite photos today…regalia in the shadowy trees, Elder Grandmother and of course, Pickle Girl! 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Cindy Lou, you were so lucky to have the experience of being an Air Force “brat” and living amid so many different cultures. Bet you learned so much!

  9. Colleen Lloyd says:

    Kathy, just before coming here I had been reading the most beautiful words about innocence…..that true innocence is the inate capacity of the heart to openly meet whatever is appearing, whenever it appears and to see it truthfully for what it is….the willingness to see and to trust.
    Your two little girls seem to show us this far beyond what words could ever say. Wonderful photos!! Very special!!

    • Kathy says:

      Love that definition of “true innocence”, Colleen. The two little girls certainly do epitomize that.

    • Cindy Lou says:

      I love this, Colleen…..it can apply to a child’s heart or our own hearts. Wouldn’t life be so much happier if everyone had this attitude? I shall write this down where I can see it every day and remember!

  10. P.j. grath says:

    One event is never the same for everyone involved. You showed respect for the event and for someone whose experience of it differed from your own. That’s all that can be asked. As for romanticizing, I have been accused of the same, and I fail to see what’s in it for me to stop romanticizing my life. If I don’t do it, who will do it for me? And look at all the pleasure I would lose!

    P.S. At the Peshawbestown pow-wow, the master of ceremonies lets audience members know when it’s all right to take photographs and when they should abstain. I usually leave my camera at home, because by the time pow-wow rolls around I really need to submerge myself in the experience rather than stand outside it.

    • Kathy says:

      I like your attitude, Pamela. If you don’t romanticize your life…who will do it for you?

      As for taking pictures at Pow Wows, last year was the first year in 22-23 years that I’ve ever taken pictures there. Wouldn’t have this year, except it seemed to mean so much to others to see the photos of this wonderful event. So wanted to try to show it once again… (I do know what you mean about submerging in the experience rather than standing outside it. That’s why I didn’t like photography all these years!)

  11. You are right, I like the Pickle Girl. 🙂

    Shots are soft from slow shutter speeds. Tough lighting, too. Still, you captured the moments and weaved them together with your prose. Well done and well said.

  12. Gerry says:

    You know I love Pow Wows. I think of them as grand community homecomings, complete with excellent treats, dancing, storytelling, awards ceremonies, politicians, squabbling cousins and religious services. They’re all different, and the experience of each person who is there is different.

    I love the photo of the little girl with her pickle, and the photo of her sharing a bite with her friend. Don’t be afraid to let such images go out in the world on their own without commentary.

    • Kathy says:

      Gerry, you’ve perfectly described the spirit of Pow Wows. All so different and varied and fascinating!

      That would have been so cool to just post the two photos without saying anything. Just let them stand on their own. Never thought of that before! (Except, of course, what I love most about blogging is the commentary and story-telling…that’s what makes my heart go pitter-pat. To just post the pics would be OK, but not as much fun!)

  13. I was at that powwow, it was unbelievable and the people warm and friendly. It was my favorite that year. Oh, and pickle girl is adorable

    • Kathy says:

      Jubileejourney, how fun to know we were at the same Powwow. I have so enjoyed going over the years. Didn’t make it this year, though, darn it, due to my husband’s knee replacement surgery. Glad you like Pickle Girl!

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