Elders gathered in the gym the afternoon of Nov. 27 to bless area and create the sacred circle that would protect the dancers and connect them to their elders throughout the weekend’s dance competition. Robert Pete Sr. helped to organize the competition powwow, and he said although they named it the Thanksgiving Powwow, it really has nothing to do with the Thanksgiving holiday.
“We started 10 years ago. It was small, but now it’s getting bigger as we continue each year,” Pete said. “We call it the Thanksgiving Powwow; it’s not really because of Thanksgiving. We as a band – The Cedar Band of Paiutes – we offer our thanks to those that helped us out along the way with our endeavors, with our businesses and the people who help us out throughout the year. And, so, this is our way of giving back.”
Dancers were awarded cash prizes for placing in the top of their category. Pete said if it is the dancer’s first win, he or she is often expected to give the money to the tribe, or more specifically, to the most needy within the tribe such as the elderly. However, if the dancer has won many times, the prize is a reward to them for their hard work and cultural dedication.
“They get monetary prizes for placing first, second or third in each category from the juniors to the teens to the adults to the golden age,” Pete said.
The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah started reestablishing their federal recognition in 1980, but the Paiute people had lost their culture after many years of failed assimilation into mainstream American culture.
Patrick Charles, job placement and training specialist for the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, said powwows are a tool of remembrance, inter-tribal socialization and cultural reeducation.
“This is really important to all the Paiute people that come here,” Pete said. "And, they’re blessed by the dancers because the dancers wear the feathers, and that’s their way of blessing us. This is just a basic, little powwow just to get together.”
In addition to the blessed dance circle protecting the dancers, Pete said the sacred circle protects their feathers from falling out of their ornate handmade regalia.
“The feathers are the most important piece that they have on their regalia,” he said. “Each dancer has either earned (each feather), or they were given to them by their grandfather or father if they were passed down.”