POWWOW... Images Along the Red Road

Florentino "Tiny" Barril

I was born in Juneau, Alaska, into an ethnically diverse family. My father emigrated from the Philippines to work in the Alaskan gold, fishing, and timber industry. My mother belonged to the Tlingit Indian Nation, which inhabits the southern and southwestern regions of Alaska. I am proud of my father's heritage and the fact that my name reflects my Filipino roots, but growing up among the Tlingit culture, I was strongly influenced by my mother's side of the family. I now live in Olympia, Washington, and further my tradition as part of a group of fellow Tlingits who don ceremonial dress and perform traditional songs and dances at ceremonies, special events, and public occasions. My dress is culturally rich and impressive. It is made up of furs, skins, and shells, which reflect the Tlingit's fur trading and maritime commerce. One of my headdresses is a hat made of woven red cedar bark with a colorful raven (y'eil) -- symbolizing my clan -- and a humpback whale (y'aay) painted on it. My other headdress is made of ermine and arctic fox, with a carving of the raven and a human face below. It is called a shakee-at dance headdress.

I feel fortunate to be born to a rich and proud people. When I begin to dress in my regalia, my heart pounds with excitement; I know I will soon dance and sing the songs of my ancestors who have long passed to the spirit world. I dance for my mother, grandmother, and their fathers' people. I will always carry myself with pride and with my head held high, for I know my identity. 

Carolyn Running Crane Whitford, Tsa-Koeem-Neema (Catches Last)

The geometric pattern on my outfit is a traditional Blackfeet design. The four directions are depicted throughout the design in shape and color. Red, yellow, black and white stand for the people of Mother Earth. The shells represent the Coushatta Nation, whose strength comes from the garfish, the sustainer of life. The blue is spiritual. It represents purification from the waters poured on the rocks in the sweat lodge. When I dance, my fringes brush away the bad spirits, so that when my eagle fan is raised high toward the sun, my prayers will reach the Creator for the good of all.

My name was given to me by my adopted father, Percy Bull Child of the Blackfeet Nation. He wrote The Sun Came Down, a history of the Blackfeet as told to him by his grandmother, Catches Last.

Gerrod Moses Goudy, Win-Wy-Tit (Great Hands in Battle)

My style of dancing is traditional. My outfit was made by my father and me. The bustles are eagle feathers; the other parts are cloth, beaded cloth, ermine skins, buckskin, and various materials. When I dance, I feel pride and the gratitude to our Creator for being who we are, his creation. Although the government attempts to destroy our heritage to make us the same as the dominant societies, our ways have survived. I believe one cannot destroy the Creator's purpose.

Shadow Walks Tailfeathers

My last name was earned by my great-great-grandfather of Browning, Montana. He was hunting as a young man and came upon a buffalo and wounded the animal. He chased it for many days. The buffalo ran up a rolling hill on the plains, and as it ran, a big golden eagle flew over. Later he came upon the buffalo lying before him with the eagle perched on top of it. He decided that he would take the eagle's life as well as the buffalo's. Our name comes from that moment.

My dancing comes from the Windyboy family of Rocky Boy, Montana. I was told that I began dancing at the time of my first walk. My grandparents taught me a spiritual awareness of the dancing -- the feeling of the rhythm, like the rain dancing on mother earth, with no boundaries. The flexibility of the body is a great gift from the Creator. The sound of the drum makes your blood rush; your heart beats like the drum. The sweat runs across your face like a waterfall after the song is silent. Dance and song become one; your existence in the rhythm is like the wind rushing through the air.

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