Native American Fancy Dancer
Native American Regalia
American Indian Heritage Festival
Now located at the Travis County Expo Center on the first Saturday in November
Every year, Austin, Texas looks forward to the event called the Annual Austin Powwow and American Indian Heritage Festival on the first Saturday in November. They have now set up to hold the festival at the Travis County Expo Center. This event was formerly held at the Tony Burger Center. It's one of Austin's finest gatherings!
Get driving directions to the Expo Center:
The dances go on all day. Starting at 10 am, spectators can sit in the arena seats and watch various stages of Native American dancing. Here is a list of favorites to watch for.
Men's Traditional Dance - a way for returning warriors to tell the tribe what happens on a hunt or in a battle. The dancers paint their faces to strike fear into their opponents.
Men's Straight Dance - a hunting dance to show how to look for prey. The headgear of an animal is common. Dramatic interpretation scores high with the judges.
Men's Grass Dance - The plains tribes first made this dance popular and they used long fringed regalia to simulate the tall grasses in which the prey hide. Sometimes they wear bells to simulate the sounds of the grass.
Women's Buckskin Dance - Very fashionable, expensive, labor intensive dresses of buckskin adorn the dancers. Long fringe emphasizes the movement of the dance. The women are beautiful and dip and sway in time to the drum.
Women's Southern Cloth - Traditional, colorful dresses passed down through the ages from different tribes. This is a graceful slow dance that expert performers do. It does not look very exiting, but it takes skill to make the regalia and body move in the exact time of the drum.
Men's Fancy Dance - Oh yea! This is the big one! Neon colors abound! Bright bustles, sparkly things, mirrors, fringe! Usually the really athletic members of the tribe do this dance as there are many spins and jumps. But the trick is to stay in time with the drum and stop completely on the last beat!
Women's Jingle Dress - The lady's equivalent of the fancy dance. The dancers wear metal cones that jingle and make sounds like rain on a tin roof. It is considered a healing dance that improves the body, mind, and soul.
Junior Boys and Girls and Tiny Tots Dance - Yes, the children get in on the powwow too! Lovely regalia made by their tribes to show off the young tribal members.
Women's Fancy Shawl Dance - A dance with a tragic story at its core. Started by a Lakota lady grieving for a fallen warrior. Now the dance is widely accepted for women of various tribes.
Do's and Don'ts for Watching the Dancers:
Dance in the group when called down for a Blanket Dance
Take photographs - ask permission before taking close ups
Invite your friends
Some things to avoid:
Don't block the view of others or stand on the rails
Be careful to not touch the dancers or their regalia (feathers are fragile and sacred)
Please do not use flash photography during formal competitions (it distracts the dancers)
Smoke or drink alcoholic beverages only in designated areas - this is a family event
Don't mess with Texas - Don't Litter - Clean up the immediate area
Other things to do at a Pow Wow!
Often there is a story telling tent. It's a great place to sit and listen to Native American stories about growing up as a member of a first American tribe. These stories have much cultural anecdotes and sometimes the story teller will play a flute or act out animal behavior. Great for kids! Various tribes tell many variations of the same kind of story which illustrates cultural differences.
Arts and Crafts Vendors abound! There is so much art that you will want to buy everything. There are carvings of every animal in nature. Art mediums include wood, coral, marble, quartz, canvas and more. Feather work items are on display. Weaving and textiles show up as blankets, drum coverings, wall art and more. Leather and silver items are common. Jewelry shows up in every conceivable form. Hand made items are usually of top quality. Often the arts and crafts have a native American story attached. Designs have tribal meanings, so ask!
The event itself is sponsored and official T-shirts, mugs, souvenirs and other items are available. Don't forget to buy a program! Lots of good information and photos are in there.
Native American Food!
Maybe the best part of this festival is the food! There is so much to try to all of it is delicious! Favorites include:
Fry Bread Recipe:
Mix the dry ingredients. Gradually add in the shortening and water just until dough sticks together. Knead dough into fist sized balls and cover for 10 minutes to rest. Pat the balls out into circles about the size of a pancake. Fry in hot oil until brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and top with just about anything!
Did you know?
There is a lot of variation in culture and languages in Native American Tribes and the Central American and South American tribes are included in "Indian" tribes.
Our indigenous people do not all live in reservations, tipi's, or hogans
Native Americans wear many hair styles, not all of them wear braids
Many Native Americans vote and hold public offices in the United States
There are 511 culturally distinct recognized tribes of Native Americans and 200 or so unrecognized tribes
"Indians" made many contributions to life as we know it today in the U.S
Native American religious practices are not for display or commercialization, they take their spiritualism very seriously, just as other religions do
Claims of Native American Heritage
Many of us have Indian Blood or claim to. Almost everyone will claim some Lakota, Sioux, Cherokee, Navajo, Apache, Choctaw, or Chickasaw blood in their ancestry. Is there a way to know for sure?
Research your family tree. Find out who, if anyone in your ancestry was a real first American.
National Geographic did a study on the DNA of Native Americans. You can have yours analyzed and compared with the 6 original mothers.
Perhaps there are old photos in your grandparent's attic that show a familial relationship with Native Americans.
Some Native American tribes include (but are not limited to):
Old Powow photo and a video from the Austin American Indian Heritage Festival: