Reflections from the Field
Several weeks ago, I had an opportunity to attend the memorable 50th anniversary Celebration and Pow Wow on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation in north central Montana. The Chippewa Cree Tribe, one of two tribes participating in the Department of Justice’s Defending Childhood Initiative, welcomed faculty and funders from the Defending Childhood Initiative; FUTURES, staff from Native Steams and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. We were hosted by The Rocky Boy’s Children Exposed to Violence Project (RBCEVP), a collaborative effort of ten organizations designed to prevent children’s exposure to violence (CEV), reduce its negative impact, and increase awareness across the 195 square miles that comprise the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation.
The Chippewa Cree Tribe has maintained the traditional spiritual beliefs and cultural ceremonies/activities that have been part of the Tribal mores since time immemorial. The origin of the word “Pow Wow” comes from a mispronunciation of an Algonquian word that referred to a gathering of medicine men and spiritual leaders. The term began to be used for any sort of large gathering of Native Americans, including celebrations that many tribes held for successful hunts or harvest, weddings, and other purposes.
The Rocky Boy’s Celebration and Pow Wow was preceded by the 2012 Rocky Boy Youth Pow Wow. This half-day event involved over 200 children dressed in their dance regalia and included a Grand Entry. This special occasion is also a time where children, some of whom were recently bestowed with their Indian names, are honored by their extended families and the community as a whole. This year, the RBCEVP provided sewing machines, fabric and work space to help local families create twenty outfits for children attending this year’s celebration.
The Rocky Boy’s Celebration and Pow Wow took place over several days, and included competitive dancing and singing for all ages with prizes. Age-specific categories included “tiny-tots” (children) on up to “Golden Age” (60 years and older), as well as dance contests for specific styles, such as men’s “fancy dancers” and “grass dancers” and women’s “fancy shawl dancers” and “jingle dress dancers”, among others. Individuals and families spend countless hours, if not months, preparing their regalia (outfits) for the celebration.
In addition to taking part in the annual Pow Wow, the RBCEVP holds quarterly community forums to engage youth on violence prevention, works with children in the schools on bullying prevention, and plans to implement a digital storytelling curriculum to record the stories and perspectives of its youth and elders. Learn more about the Defending Childhood Initiative and the Rocky Boy Children Exposed to Violence Project and visit YouTube to view videos of the 2012 Rocky Boy Pow Wow dancers and drum groups.
Anna Marjavi, Program Manager, Health