Friday, May 17, 2013

Gathering of Nations 2013, Part 1

Gathering of Nations 2013, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Several folks have remarked to me that they like small powwows more than large ones. The Gathering of Nations is certainly in the large category, billed as the largest powwow in North America.

Now having done both small and large, I'll agree with those who prefer the smaller events. On the other hand, an event as large as the Gathering of Nations brings perspectives you might not see at small powwows.

A mishmash of impressions below.

Gathering of Nations 2013, Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Red Paint Powwow (January) in Silver City was my first powwow

This is where I learned about the components of some powwows. I went into considerable detail back then, and if you're interested, you can read about them in the links below, as I won't repeat them in the Gathering of Nations post.

Part 1: Golden Eagle
Part 2:  The Chinese Hopi
Part 3: The Gourd Dance
Part 4: The Grand Entry
Part 5: Gaan Dancers
Part 6: North and South and drum and Drum

The Gathering of Nations - in size - exceeded the Red Paint Powwow by a factor of, I don't know, a hundred. It's big.

Gathering of Nations 2013, Albuquerque, New Mexico


The sound is excellent everywhere in the arena.

Bring earplugs - you never know where you might end up, and it might be right next to a monster speaker.

Gathering of Nations 2013, Albuquerque, New Mexico


Getting good photos is a challenge because you're either too far away or, if you're close to the performance floor, there are likely people standing in your line of sight.

Also, most people you want to photograph are moving - dancing, drumming, walking, jumping - and transferring in and out of your frame. While movement can result in beautiful photographs, it means you'll need to take lots of shots to guarantee a successful few.

One option is to forego the camera and live in the moment.

Gathering of Nations 2013, Albuquerque, New Mexico


Holy mother, there is no shade in the outside area with the food vendors and the music stages.

If you'll be at the GON during the day, bring both a hat and sunglasses. The sun is brutal.

Note: You don't have to go outside if you don't want. There are also food vendors and artisan items indoors.  

Gathering of Nations 2013, Albuquerque, New Mexico

The emcee(s)

I attended the Gathering of Nations on Saturday, and it seemed there were two emcees, trading off. I couldn't help but compare the emcees at the GON with the emcee at Red Paint. All had liquid radio voices, pleasant to listen to. .

All expressed humor. Red Paint Powwow's emcee, Otis Half Moon, had a wry wit that touched on history, sociology, politics, even poverty.

I felt a couple of comments by one of the GON emcees were inappropriate, with references such as "give me some tongue" and "chasing tail."

Given the troubling reports of an appallingly high rate of sexual assault against Native girls and women by Native men - such comments felt, at best, tasteless, especially at a family event such as GON.

And especially with the Native American Women Warriors, aka "lady warriors," serving as this year's Color Guard (and given the U.S. military's disgusting tolerance of sexual assault of women soldiers by their male comrades and commanding officers.)

"Lady warriors"of the Color Guard, Gathering of Nations 2013, New Mexico.

A giving tradition

At GON, after the New Zealand Maori dance troupe finished, the blanket was laid out for donations to help them defray its travel costs. Perhaps on different days of GON or at different times, other groups benefit from blanket collections.

Gathering of Nations 2013, Albuquerque, New Mexico

I always smile when I think how Red Paint's emcee encouraged donations during a blanket collection, noting that even government cheese was welcome. (There was a time when I had to get me some of that government cheese.)

Next --> Part 2: A Whole New Music Genre

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