Courtesy photo

There is a very special event scheduled for the Memorial Day weekend at Aspen High School in the Big Gym. It’s suitable for the whole family, it’s inexpensive, and it’s both educational and great entertainment. 

Deanne Vitrac-Kessler, local organizer of the upcoming Shining Mountains Pow Wow and co-founder of the Aspen Indigenous Foundation, said: “This will be the third pow wow in Aspen that I have organized.” She continued, “Pow Wows are generally organized by a committee that works for months” to prepare. She explained, “The committee books drum groups, the Head Man and Head Woman dancers, the spiritual person who will lead the blessing prayer, and the color guards.” They also arrange food and lodging for the staff. Last, but not least, the committee raises money to pay the champion dancers, drummers and singers.

Vitrac-Kessler credited Emcee Steve LaPointe and Arena Director Phil Gover for their assistance in organizing Aspen’s upcoming pow wow, saying that arranging an event of this magnitude is no easy task. She reported that more than 100 native participants are expected to attend, and they will be coming from Colorado, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Arizona. 

She added, “Most pow wows are highly competitive,” noting that this pow wow will likely not be any different. Each competitors’ regalia alone can cost thousands of dollars and champion dancers and singers attend as many pow wows as they can. Vitrac-Kessler said there is a pow wow circuit that is followed by the “champion dancers and singers” as a way of making money through their talents. But primarily, she continued, a pow wow is “an opportunity to gather, sing, dance, reconnect with old friends and celebrate rich ancestral histories and culture.” 

Some historians claim that pow wows originated with warriors returning to their tribes after battling enemies. They were a means of relating bravery and the battle’s events via traditional dances. The most prestigious act in battle involved not killing, but “counting coup,” which required coming close enough to hit the enemy for the purpose of humiliating them.

Aspen’s Shining Mountains Pow Wow will feature 15 vendors’ booths offering native silver and turquoise jewelry, crafts and clothes. Navajo fry breads and Indian tacos will also be available.

A Pow Wow is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn more about the culture of the people who first called this land their home. Take the kids — they’ll love it.