“It is really a homecoming to many people,” said Robert Soontay, a Kiowa tribe member and member of the Gourd Society. The Gourd Dance took place before the grand entrance.
Powwow emcee Rob Daugherty reminded those gathered during the dance of the importance of the gourd dance as a time to honor veterans. Soontay said the dance originated in the 1940s among the Kiowa tribe, and while it is not solely for veterans, it is a special dance for those who have served in the armed forces.
“It is a kind of honor dance for older men. These men, a lot of them are veterans who dance this dance,” said Soontay. “It gives them a good feeling, the beat of the drum.”
Soontay said all the dancers, drummers and singers knew exactly how to move and sing because they had studied the moves making sure to correctly stay with powwow etiquette and tradition. Though everyone is welcome.
“For this type of powwow, it’s not hard to learn the dances and what to do,” said Soontay.
Minnie Kaye, a Cherokee citizen living in Tulsa, does not dance herself, but came to watch her grandchildren dance and spend time with family.
“You get to meet a lot of new people and see old friends you only see once a year,” said Kaye.
Her granddaughter, Nicole Sine, is a fancy shawl dancer who makes her own clothing. Kaye’s two 15-year-old grandsons, Christian Kaye and Kyle Sine, are dancers as well, fancy dance and rash dance, respectively. While Kaye is Cherokee, her grandchildren are Cherokee as well as Ho-Chunk and Navajo, though those are not the only tribes represented by her family.
Christian’s outfit involved the entire family working together so it would be ready in time.
“We were all cutting tape and doing a little bit of everything until 10:30 on Wednesday and Thursday night,” said Kaye.
Kaye said her young great-grandchildren attended one night of the powwow as well.
While they were too young to understand the procedures of when they could dance and needed to be closely watched, Kaye said it is important children begin coming from a young age so they can begin to understand the traditions of powwows.
“That’s how they learn, starting so young,” said Kaye.
Kaye and Soontay both said it is a great honor to be part of the head council for a powwow or to help run a one as an emcee or arena director.
“I tell my grandchildren, ‘Don’t turn it down if you are ever asked,’ because it is a great honor,” said Kaye.
Soontay also said the singers and drummers have a special role in the powwow, because they give their voice to traditional songs, most of which are family songs.
While attendees are listening to the songs, they are watching the dancers.
“Every eye is on the dancer during competition,” said Soontay. He said many people like to see how the outfits have developed and changed over time.
Kaye said her grandchildren and son-in-law travel all over the country to compete in different powwows.
She enjoys the bright clothing and said one of the things she particularly enjoyed at the Cherokee National Holiday powwow was the emcee who spoke Cherokee, her first language.
For Sunday Plumb, Miss Cherokee for the 2014-2015 year, this national holiday is different from those she has attended in the past.
“I’ve been coming to Cherokee National Holiday since I was little,” said Plumb. “This is my first time to be in one officially.”
She said it was easy to pick up the dances since she had watched them for years. Plumb said in the past, her favorite dance to watch was the Jingle Dance and the Fancy Dance.
“I just love to be a part of it instead of being a spectator,” said Plumb. “When I was little, it never occurred to me I would be Miss Cherokee someday.”