When Navajo filmmaker Arlene Bowman began her search for a reconnection to
traditional Native culture, she followed the pow wow circuit through the
United States and Canada. After years in Los Angeles, Bowman, video camera
in hand, explored the lives of dancers and drummers, including male
drummers who did not want women in the circle of the drum.
Bowman's journey was one of identity, both a personal one and the identity
of the pow wow culture.
Jonathan Windy Boy, Chippewa Cree at Rocky Boy in Montana, is an
international award-winning Grass dancer, tribal councilman and Montana
state representative. Windy Boy said there is a "spirit of the pow wow.
"It's how one perceives it."
Patricia Anne Davis, Navajo pow wow dancer, said the pow wow journey in
life often brings the unexpected, as did Philbert's film journey from
Northern Cheyenne in Montana to Santa Fe, N.M. in "Pow Wow Highway."
"I have been dancing pow wows since 1964, the year that I met Russell Means
in Sonny Tuttle's tipi set up at the Navajo Nation Fair in Window Rock,
Ariz. We used to dance around together with a group of inter-tribal dancers
in the Southwest before there were pow wows there.
"Many years later, in 1972 while living in Cambridge, Mass., I went to a
pow wow with my Comanche husband who was friends with Means since 1964. The
pow wow was in a high school gym in Roxbury, Mass., which is the ghetto
part of downtown Boston.
"When we arrived there was a sign on the door that said, 'No Whites
Allowed.' It was the strangest pow wow because the white people who were
married to Indians were not allowed to go into the pow wow with their
spouses. I, being light-complexioned, would not have been allowed to go in
with my husband if I didn't personally know Russell Means. These were the
early days of AIM in urban America."