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Denver March Powwow begins the season

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DENVER – For more than 35 years, the Denver March Powwow has been the unofficial kickoff of the pow wow season, and it was no different for 2009. The first weekend of spring brought sunny skies, temperatures in the 70s and more than 2,000 dancers, singers and artists from across Indian country to Denver.

First Place Adult Results Golden Age Men: Lewis Cozad

Chief Senior Men: Terry Fiddler

Golden Age Women: Roberta Wind

Senior Women: Lillian Goodeagle

Men’s Southern Straight: Ron Goodeagle Sr.

Women’s Southern Cloth: Rosie Motah

Men’s Fancy: Doug Scholfield

Women’s Southern Buckskin: Toni Tsatoke

Men’s Grass: Julius Not Afraid

Women’s Jingle Dress: Willow Jack

Men’s Traditional: M.J. Bull Bear

Women’s Fancy: Tanksi Clairmont

Men’s Chicken: Chad Kills Crow

Many of the biggest names in pow wow turned out to compete throughout the weekend. Julius Not Afraid, Nigel Schugler, Ron Goodeagle, Boy Lad, Toni Tsatoke, Adam Nordwall and the legendary Terry Fiddler are just some of the dancers who attended this year’s celebration. More than 30 drum groups from as far away as New Jersey filled the Denver Coliseum with the high pitched songs of the Northern Plains and the deep low singing of the South.

For many of the dancers, this pow wow is the first big event of the season. Now is the time they break out new beadwork, bustles and outfits to show off their winter labors. The first night of the event, for some dancers, is spent in the hotel room sewing and finishing new designs for the weekend competition. “I stayed up until 3 a.m. on Friday sewing ermines on my outfit,” said Nordwall, a grass dancer from Nevada.


There were 17 specials hosted during the weekend, with gifts of money, blankets and jackets being donated by various families. The specials honor loved ones who have passed or a family who would like to give something back to the dance circle. The highlight of the weekend was presented by Miss Denver March Amanda Ironstar, who hosted a ladies Jingle Dress special contest. The winner, Grace Pushnetonequa, took home $2,000, a horse, saddle, jacket and complete new jingle dress outfit.

The general contest dancing was tough, especially for dancers coming from sea level to compete at Denver’s 5,200-foot elevation. Because some of the categories had so many dancers, the judges needed more than three songs to decide the winners.

“You could see who’s not from the mountains by the end of the second song, it usually takes at least five days to get used to this thin air,” said Bill Tyler, from North Dakota. Larry Hedgepath, a traditional dancer from Pennsylvania, said he arrived four days early to get acclimated to the elevation.

The pow wow is not just about competition, but also about family, friends and the public coming together to share the beauty of the culture.

Allen McCabe, a Navajo silversmith from Flagstaff, Ariz., said he was not sure how the weekend would turn out for sales, with all the talk of a recession and American’s not spending, “I’m a little nervous,” he said. But it turned out better than he expected. “I was surprised, we did pretty good considering.” Many of the vendors were thankful the crowds turned out to support Indian arts and culture.

The pow wow is not just about competition, but also about family, friends and the public coming together to share the beauty of the culture.

Next year will mark the 36th Annual Denver March Powwow. If you plan on attending, book your room early because this event is one of the finest on the pow wow trail.