Dancing in the New Year: Tour offers introduction to pow wow celebration

click to enlarge Grand champion traditional Nimiipuu dancer, cúu?um kuckúc (Little Bull) Herschel Celilo Williamson.
Grand champion traditional Nimiipuu dancer, cúu?um kuckúc (Little Bull) Herschel Celilo Williamson.



If you’re looking to celebrate the new year with something more memorable than watching a ball drop on TV, you might consider attending a pow wow.

To make that option more accessible, Nez Perce Tourism, LLC is providing a guided tour of Renegade’s New Year’s Eve Celebration and Pow Wow. The tour introduces the history and culture of pow wow so that guests can better understand and enjoy the event in a respectful way.

Pow wow is open to both tribal and non-tribal members, explained Stacia Morfin, the Nez Perce tribal member who started and owns Nez Perce Tourism. But for people who’ve never gone to a pow wow before, she said, it can be intimidating. They aren’t always sure what behaviors are considered appropriate and might not understand or know how to respond to certain situations.

“The last thing people want to do is disrespect the culture,” Morfin said.

Since last March, Nez Perce Tourism has partnered with ten local pow wows to provide tours that facilitate intercultural understanding. Morfin works with pow wow organizers within Nimiipuu country to ensure that tour guests know they are welcome and are provided with customized information for each celebration.

The Renegade’s New Year’s Pow Wow and Celebration is an established event that is free and open to all, Morfin said. The tour that Nez Perce Tourism offers of the event begins beforehand, so that participants can learn pow wow etiquette, norms and history. At 7 p.m., the grand entry takes place, which is a parade of color and sound that honors visiting royalty, invited dignitaries and all dancers and categories for the celebration. It’s a spectacular start to the celebration, Morfin said.

“The intent is for the guest to feel welcome.”

Morfin has observed that people feel more comfortable when they attend a celebration with a tribal member. They’re not as worried about not knowing what to do or disrespecting the culture.

One example of a situation that may be unfamiliar to guests is the Fallen Eagle Ceremony, which is performed any time that an eagle feather falls to the floor off a dancer’s regalia. The occurrence is like a warrior falling on the battlefield, Morfin said. Because it is a sacred moment, it’s not appropriate to take photographs or behave in a disrespectful manner.

Besides pow wow culture, participants will also learn about different types of dances, like the duck and dive dance that is performed by multiple tribes, but originated with the Nez Perce. The tour also discusses beadwork, regalia and other aspects of pow wow. Tour guests will have an opportunity to purchase food, as well as arts and crafts memorabilia to take home.

Morfin encourages people to attend with a friend or family members -- not just because it can be more enjoyable, but because that’s what pow wow is about.

“The whole reason for the celebration is to meet and be introduced to old and new friends,” she said.

It’s a memorable event that can deepen connections because pow wow is more than just something fun to attend.

“When you experience pow wow celebration, you’ll see that,” Morfin said.


WHAT: New Year’s Eve Pow Wow and Celebration Tour.

WHEN: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for tour; pow wow grand entry begins at 7 p.m. and goes through midnight.

WHERE: Pi-Nee-Waus Community Center, 504 Main St. S, Lapwai.

COST: $50 per person for the tour; reduced rates for elders, veterans and families are available.

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