Visiting Indian reservations is one of the best experiences you can live on a trip around the United States. When European colonizers arrived in America, there were more than twelve million natives living in these lands, divided into more than a thousand tribes. Gradually they annihilated their members and robbed them, taking away a territory that belonged to them from the beginning of time. Thanks to their demands, the natives are gaining more and more rights but there is still a long way to go. In the meantime, they take advantage of the appeal of their culture to benefit from tourism and show foreigners their ancestral traditions. Not all reservations are open to the public, but many of them are. In this article we will give you guidelines and tips so you can visit some.
What are Pow Wows?
Fortunately, the powwow, the gatherings of native tribes where its rich cultural heritage are exhibited, still take place. Powwow is a word that in the narrative language means something like “spiritual leader” but by extension it applies to a type of dances that that weekend are represented by the Indians to the sound of pholorial music, with accentuated drum beats and traditional songs whose lyrics speak of legends and myths. These rituals were part of everyday life, each with a specific purpose: hunting, war, fun… A cultural legacy that is further enriched and gains spectacularity thanks to the splendid colorful costumes and characteristic feathered headdresses.
Denver powwow is one of the most interesting. Denver was once an Indian territory that settlers had to traverse to travel west and, consequently, today a meeting point for the proud representatives of the North American tribes once a year. It is an event of strong ethnic content that takes place in the local Coliseum of Humboldt Street in which no less than 1,600 natives from a hundred different tribes, from 38 US states and several provinces of Canada, participate, with the aim of keeping alive the traditions and cultural heritage of their ancestors, presenting it to the public to make it known.
Each day starts at 10:00 with the opening of the craft fair and, twice a day, at 11:0 and 19:00, the entrances of the groups that will act (except Sunday, that there is only one): the Indians parade down the Coliseum with their spectacular trappings, their leather loafers, their coats of arms with beads, their plumage and carrying flaming flags. From there the dances take place along with other complementary activities, from typical dining posts to the choice of Princess Pow Wow, to a competition called Jingle Dress Dance, in which women dance adorned with bells.
Although many still have the idea that an Indian reserve are a bunch of tipis clustered around a campfire, nothing further from reality. With the exception of some tribes in Arizona and New Mexico, where its inhabitants continue to live in rudimentary adobe houses, the Indians have mown for modernity. Today such reservations have facilities such as hotels, libraries, sports centers and especially casinos: it should be remembered that within the reservations no taxes are paid, so the Indians have become the masters and lords of the gambling houses (they move much more money than the casinos of Las Vegas). However, no alcohol, in many of the reserves it is strictly forbidden. Alcoholism is one of the great scourges of the Indian community: more than 12% of the population dies from this problem. Another source of income is tourism: every year thousands of people visit the reserves, trying to learn a little more about the authentic origins of American culture.