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by Larry Aitken Leech Lake Tribal Historian
Nee-Bin is an Anishinabe word for summer. [Anishinabe is used interchangeably with Ojibwe and Chippewa to denote the American Indian people living in the Cass Lake area.] During this time of year, many visitors may have pleasure of witnessing a native powwow.
The word "powwow" is an invented word used by early Westerners to depict a grand council or dance that was to happen among the indigenous people.
Dances and ceremonies of indigenous native people convey a deep spiritual meaning. Songs are sung during specific seasons of the year, with special purpose and significant customs accompanying them. Colorful outfits represent personal reflections and traditional meaning connected with the earth. Some represent birds, others flowering grass. Still others honor animal beings, the bear, the fox, and the deer. The dancers themselves interpret the meaning of their outfits.
A recent addition to the powwow is the grand entry, used to begin the event. During this time, a single line of all the dancers enters the arena, dancing. After the dancers have encircled the drum and are in position, a spiritual or medicine man performs a pipe ceremony. This is a prayer for all the people, including the dancers and visitors.
Powwows that are advertised are open to the public. Picture taking is permitted, with one exception -- no pictures should be taken of the pipe ceremony.
There are ceremonies around the drum that are not public. These are conducted in local communities at special times of the year, giving thanks for the bounties of the earth or paying tribute to veterans who did in action during a war, for women, for elders, youth, teachers, medicine people and leaders or warriors.
Powwows that are public are meant for everyone. Visitors and friends are encourage to attend and visit. This is a time for celebration, a time for fun and healing, a time for family and a time for community.
Links to Pow Wow