By Jeff Rebitski, Staff Writer

Over the weekend, the Fort Washakie Pow Wow Grounds were packed with people who came to enjoy the sense of community that surrounds the festivities and food, and celebrating the vast native culture that defines this region of Wyoming. The Shoshone Indian Days celebration, an annual event, now in its 62nd year, commemorates the grandeur and fun that is a source of pride for all the tribes that participate. 

The morning comes early to the plains region near Fort Washakie. The people who are moving around as the sun comes up are those who are tasked with making breakfast for the contestants and presenters at this year’s event.  With a circle of vendors, food trucks and trailers surrounding the parade field, the opening ceremony began with a procession of floats, often trucks, cars and motorcycles decked out in traditional native regalia that merged the old and the new traditions of native American pride. After that parade, the mounted presenters donned their regalia, mounted their horses and ponies and rode into the center of the parade ground. With a bit of high stepping excitement, one young man presented as a warrior while another man, James Tone, dressed in complete and meticulously detailed traditional war paint and clothing. He approached all spectators with war cries and spear thrusts. 

Within the group of riders, was a lovely young lady, proudly wearing a white doeskin costume that was almost completely covered with fine and beautifully colored beadwork. As Sophie SeeSequasis rode in, elegant and proud in her costume that was made so many years ago by her grandmother and passed down to Sophie after her passing, the crowd gasped at the long and glistening robes and the beautiful girl who wore them with such dignity and grace. In speaking to her father, he stated that although they live in North Dakota, Sophie’s mother is Shoshone and he belongs to the Cree Indian Nation. He states that they travel to several events each year and Sophie takes great pride in her grandmother’s handiwork, displaying it majestically whenever possible. 

Cass Burson, the Eastern Shoshone chairmen for entertainment, and Claullen Tillman, vice chairman, shared some thoughts about the events and explained many of the traditions of the Pow Wow. “Planning takes an entire year, said Cass. “We begin right after the Pow Wow each year with elections of new board members and from there the process begins. We always have it in either the beginning or end of June each year depending on other similar events that may be happening in other states.” “ We have at least 500 contestants this year and it is a little bigger than last year,” said Claullen. “We were dealing with Covid last year.” 

Fuel prices have caused many people to plan ahead so they can hit a few events in one trip. Often the journey coincides with vacations, or doctor appointments. “During the royalty phase, there is a contest for Queen, Princess and Jr. Princess,” says Cass, “they compete in dance, public speaking and interview questions. “They should know about their heritage and traditions as well as their regalia and dance origins. Eye contact and confidence is important.” says Cass. When the royalty is selected by a panel of 3 tribal members, they spend the subsequent year representing the Eastern Shoshone Tribe at events all around the country as far east as Senica, New York.

The horses play a big part in the contests as they compete in the Indian Relay. The contestants all ride bareback around a course for the fastest times. This is a crowd favorite and tourists really enjoy the pace and rigor of the race. 

“Tourism is important as vendors present their traditional native crafts and artwork for sale,” says Cass. “Many people make their money for the year by selling their wares, whether food or crafts.” 

The dances are judged on tradition and style along with the regalia that are worn. There are basically 3 categories judged in women and men. For the women, they are judged in “Jingle” where each costume is covered with bells and metallic objects that jingle as the dancer moves. Next, is Fancy Shawl that demonstrates the ornate shawls and dance moves that are made as the shawl is expanded and used as a prop during the traditional dance. Finally, The “Traditional style is performed and carries the traditions of the local tribe or family that the dancer represents. Style, movements and costumes all matter during all judged competitions. 

The men, in similar fashion, are judged in “Grass” dancing that focuses on the footwork, while the “Fancy” focuses on the regalia worn and if it is truly traditional or a modern representation. The “traditional” is as it is named. Traditional dance, that represents the family, spiritual beliefs and tribal affiliation. 

All is done with majesty and traditional pride that is brought from all corners of this country and Canada, featuring elements from all walks of life. The children are given the opportunity to dance as well, but also have the chance to run in foot races and they can even try and stump their parents as they manage a game of “red light, green light” for the adults. 

Traditional Indian tacos and variations of traditional food and fusion cuisine, including Chinese food was available at the event and breakfast burritos served out of the trunk of a car were a popular distraction from the dancing.  

The fun, family, traditions and pride in one’s heritage were displayed in magnificent fashion at this year’s Eastern Shoshone Indian Days, in Fort Washakie, Wyoming. 

Final Results of Competition are as follows:  

Jr. Boys Traditional

Jay Hernandez

Antonio Solovzano

Timinah Ellenwood

Jr Girls Traditional

Starla Robinson

Ayanna Has C’Hair

Jaedan Rain C’Hair

Jr Boys Grass Dance

Deidray Blackburn

Omar Apodaca

Nate Robinson Jr

Jr Girls Jingle

Kaylee Washakie

Manuela Capitan

Sofia Antelope

Jr Boys Fancy

Jayezon Bell

Ainga Huchu Hill

Jr Girls Fancy

Bubbles Robinson

Samara Wallowingbull

Tristan Her Many Horses

Teen Boys Traditional

Norman Iron Cloud

Teen Girls Traditional

Ceara Vera

Chloe Iron Cloud

Janae Todd

Teen Boys Grass Dance

Darion Perry

Darian Augustine

Lloyd Wallowbull

Teen Girls Jingle

Alayna Bevis

Dionne Ferris

Tehya Spoonhunter

Teen Boys Fancy

Andrew Tillman

Teen GIrls Fancy

Shayla Yellowhair

Dinayla Augustine

Emil Posey

Lacey Abrahamson Bacon danced Sunday at the 62nd Annual Eastern Shoshone Indian Days Powwow in Fort Washakie.
Wrapped in traditional garb, Payton, Mannym, Emil and Aden Posey walked the parade route on the last day of the Eastern Shoshone Indian Days.
Morris Bull Bear competed in a dance competition Sunday at the 62nd Annual Eastern Shoshone Indian Days Powwow in Fort Washakie.
James Tone’ danced Sunday at the 62nd Annual Eastern Shoshone Indian Days Powwow in Fort Washakie.
Buck Wallahee competed Sunday at the 62nd Annual Eastern Shoshone Indian Days Powwow in Fort Washakie.
Jamie Ariwhite Pokibro judged a round of dance competition at the 62nd Annual Eastern Shoshone Indian Days Powwow in Fort Washakie Sunday.

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