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Black Hills Powwow: A Kaleidoscope of Color

Kris, a South Dakota native, regularly travels from coast to coast in pursuit of the next creative endeavor but always returns to the Black Hills to enjoy the solitude and beauty that is hardly rivaled by other areas of the country. 

August 24, 2021

Every October, a celebration full of life, love and culture takes place in Rapid City. The Black Hills Powwow is one of the largest powwows in the nation held each October (next event takes place October 2022). The powwow brings together hundreds of dancers, singers, artisans and athletes from around the nation along with thousands of spectators. It’s an enlightening event to witness and showcases beauty and power of Native American culture. Dancers come to this event from all over the nation after winning regional dances, meaning this event is truly filled with some of the best.

Upon entering the arena you’ll find yourself surrounded by an endless variety of color; my first year attending I remember having to step aside for a minute and take in the spectacle. The jingle dresses, feathered headdresses, and an assortment of other stunning regalia is merely a glimpse at the extensive culture being celebrated.

Singers performing at the Black Hills Powwow in Rapid City

 

As you look around the arena you’ll discover rows of traditional drum groups. Take in the sounds as the Lead Singers prep their group. Observing bleachers are filled with families and spectators supporting the art and culture that surrounds them. All around the arena you’ll be able to explore and shop vendor booths with various products and art. 

Dancers performing at the Black Hills Powwow in Rapid City

 

The event kicks off with a Grand March. Flags from many nations are held high by tribal leaders and members of our United States military in uniform. You’ll be able to feel the building excitement and pride as the powwow begins.

From the youth jingle dress dancers to the elders, the beautiful performers go round and round for all to see. At one end the MC guides a team of judges throughout the duration of the multi-day event. The judges watch from different vantage points and amongst the dancers, one category and style of dance after another. Selecting the dancers that stand out, judges award individuals as the day goes on.

Dancer performing at the Black Hills Powwow in Rapid City

 

The whole event is a kaleidoscope of breathtaking color and movement. When you attend each day, you’ll be able to identify the different dance styles on display. Each one holding its own dignified beauty. From the small, detailed movements of Jingle Dress to the powerful motions of fancy dance – you’ll fall in love with them all. When it comes to Saturday night it becomes a true spectacle. The individual dance movements can no longer be identified as all the dancers flood the floor appearing to move and swirl as one. It’s a captivating culture that roots deep into the Black Hills area – I can’t think of a better place to experience its beauty.