You haven’t always been able to attend the Twin Butte Traditional Powwow. But now you can.
Only Since the 60s
A couple of decades ago you would never find a local traditional powwow like this one at Twin Buttes.
They were illegal from 1900 until late in the last century. That egregious law was overturned and now, communities such as Twin Buttes host spectacular weekends of color and dance.
It’s a laid back small gathering. Dancers compete for prize money, and in some contests, there were so few dancers, they all won prizes — hundreds of dollars. It’s the one powwow each year we try to attend because of its authenticity and its tradition. We wrote about it here.
The Three Affiliated Tribes, or MHA Nation, and the Twin Buttes community are making huge changes to the powwow area — it’s much easier to drive in, and find a place to park — better than just a couple of years ago.
It is in an ideal location, tucked into badlands hills right next to Lake Sakakawea, the flooded bottom ground where most of the families’ ancestors lived.
And so, that’s what we did — drove in and found a place to park.
Once we did, we moved toward the community feed — several are hosted each day through the weekend. Help yourself! We sat opposite a couple ladies from White Shield, both were veterans and participated in the grand entry when veterans lead the processions.
The powwow is not exclusively Mandan, or Hidatsa or Arikara. They all participate and so do members of more distant tribes. In fact, they come from several states; Colorado, Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota. Even the announcer was from Lame Deer, Montana.
So, what’s in it for a non-native visitor at a traditional powwow? The open invitation free feed, several vendors selling jewelry, blankets, clothing and trinkets. We found at the free feed, a tasty set of salads and the main dish, mac and cheese. Most powwows have a ring of food vendors with their food trucks outside the arbor circle.
There’s no mistaking when the afternoon celebration starts. Drum groups with their appropriate songs. You hear the songs wherever you are in the little valley. Listen to this: video:
“Native American drums are arguably the most well known Native instruments among Native Americans and non Native people alike. Drums for centuries have certainly been at the center of American Indian lifestyle, forming what has become the central point of religion and spirituality as well as special days where a pow wow drum is at the center.
“Indian tribes in North America history have all used drums in various ways to connect with a higher power known to most as the Great Spirit. To Native people, Indian drums are much more than just decorations or interesting musical instruments. American Indian drums are believed to speak to the drummer. Native drums being made in a circle represent the earth and life.”
From Indians.org, Native American Powwow
We positioned ourselves on opposites sides of the arbor to capture images and videos of the vent.Then, we took breaks and met with more people such as Keith Bear from New Town. Like everyone else, Keith is friendly, hospitable, open and conversant.
It’s a delight to see so many families happy, smiling, energized. Children are every where. After all, traditional powwows are family events. No booze, drugs or attitudes. It would be tough to find a happier, more welcoming spot .
The Twin Butte Powwow is one of the last celebrations of the summer. Powwow season winds down for the MHA Nation at the Little Shell Powwow at New Town.
Many more images from the Twin Buttes powwow can be found by clicking here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are non-Natives allowed at a powwow?
Can anyone go to a powwow? Absolutely! It is a celebration. You will find people friendly, easy to talk to and hospitable. And it’s free!
Where are powwow held?
Generally on the Indian Reservation, such as the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Go to the tribal website to get a schedule of upcoming powwows.
When are the powwows?
Usually in the summer, ending about the time school starts. Some special powwows are held in the winter in local communities on the Indian Reservations.