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Old 11-28-2006, 05:36 PM   #1
Paul G
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From an Emcee's Point of View

Posted by geraldmirra

My first and foremost passion has always been
storytelling, at least, for the past 15 years of my life. As a young
Riverboat Pilot though, I thought it would be a natural step to try my
hand at being an Emcee at a powwow. It has been said that if you are
willing to be the fool, the Creator will give you wisdom!

I
have been on the powwow trail for as many years as I have been a
storyteller, but neither the art of tweaking words, or the rocky-road
of the Red Trail has made me an expert or an authority on
Native-American culture. I still consider myself a student.

Right
from the beginning of my experience, being addressed as the Master of
Ceremonies in the Sacred Circle was a responsibility I didn’t fully
understand, or I underestimated it. As I stepped up to the microphone
for the first time, and the timbre of my voice was heard, I realized it
was more than just a matter of showing up for a job or a gig.

Taking
it from the beginning, from the Grand Entry, I had to be familiar with
the order in which everything unfolds. Sure, I had attended many
powwows, and participated in the dances. From the first steps I thought
everyone’s eyes were on me, and I became self-conscious, perhaps it was
my ego. I thought that the whole world revolved around just me. It took
a while to get the hang of things and realize everyone was paying
attention to their own steps and trying to hear and feel the songs and
the drum for themselves. There wasn’t any time for watching your
neighbor. The Sacred Circle is very patient.

The
idea of the difference between the Northern Drum and the Southern Drum
seemed simple enough, but then the different dance styles and the
history that accompanied them was a different story. As an Emcee I
thought it necessary to help educate the public who had come to learn.
Lucky for me, it was an inter-tribal event.

I
realized there are over 500 Indian Nations in the United States alone.
Each one has their customs and their own way of handling tradition.
Indians have survived over 10,000 years by subscribing to tradition and
trying to keep in step with the elders. We are still here.

The
Head dancer, who was Haudenosaunee, was a young warrior, at least a few
years younger than me. I will call him Andrew. I traveled 60 miles a
week to dance with an Oneida family in Syracuse, New York. They were
teaching their children the songs and the dances so they didn’t loose
their precious culture, customs, and traditions. Andrew and I had a bit
of a skirmish at the gathering. Yes, myself and the Head Dancer had a
spat, but that was at another time and another place in our lives; but
herein lies the real problem. Indians hold grudges forever. They never
forget. They never forgot 1492, they never forgot Pine Ridge, the never
forgot the Fort Stanwix Treaty, and they will never forget Leonard
Peltier, but that is a different story!

Somewhere between
me telling stories, and changing the floor-plan of the dance arena, a
middle-aged Cherokee woman dressed in full regalia stepped up to me and
wanted to speak on the microphone. She said she was the Cherokee Mother
of Nations. Who was I to challenge her? I will call her Mother.

She
appeared as a self-proclaimed Mother of Nations, no one else in the
audience knew any difference, there were only a handful of Natives
present who knew her. So, I let Mother speak. Other Native-Americans
that knew her, they had a skirmish with her or she had a skirmish with
them. Sometimes it gets so confusing!

Me
being of Kickapoo blood, and the Head Dancer was Haudenosaunee, in an
up-state New York pow-wow, this is where the high-water mark was
measured. Kickapoo means “wanderers”. Their territory at one time was
the states of Michigan and Illinois. They were agriculturists living
off corn, beans, and squash. They lived in Long Houses, but
Haudenosaunee war parties and others crossed their paths, and they
wandered west and had to become buffalo hunters as well as
agriculturists. But, this was an Indian matter. The Sacred Circle is very forgiving.

This
Emcee being at-the-ready, the audience waiting, and the inter-tribal
dancers were waiting in the dance arena in 80 degree weather, hot and
humid, Andrew, the Head Dancer was nowhere to be found. This young man
went swimming, and this first-time Emcee didn’t know the proper
protocol, so he called it as he thought it would be correct. The
dancing began without Andrew.

Well, the Head Dancer
returned, stepped up to the drum circle, with the microphone on, for
the Creator and everyone to hear, and began chewing out, me first, the
Drum, and then, anyone else who would listen.

My Cherokee
Mother of Nations and a Clan Mother stepped up to my defense. The Host
Drum joined in and asked what were we suppose to do when the Head
Dancer is swimming in the Mohawk River?  The Host drum was going to
pick up and leave. The Emcee intervened and kept things to a mild
uproar, and that particular skirmish was under control. The Sacred Circle is a sober judge.

Whenever
two people or more are involved in anything there is politics. The ugly
head of debate, concessions, and compromise are present. The Host Drum The Spirit of the People
from Vermont, they are a woman’s drum. These brave young ladies, it was
their first time being a Host Drum. They had drummed and sung, and
performed before, they were steeped in Indian tradition, and they were
no strangers to the Red Trail.

It was learned by the
Emcee that a couple of other Male Drums at another event had turned
their backs on the Woman’s Drum. Perhaps it was a male thing, or
perhaps the bounds of tradition had met the future. It reminds me of
the time in non-Indian culture when women couldn’t vote, women didn’t
work traditional jobs, women were of little importance. They were meant
to be housekeepers and maids. Yes, tradition had kept Native-Americans
alive for over 10,000 years because of the “old ways,” but I have
learned that a warrior must be prepared for whatever comes his way,
past or present. The songs and dances remind us. The Sacred Circle sees no skin color or gender.

When
Andrew returned and entered the arena, and the Drum began a Sneak-up,
yes, this Head Dancer was sneaking up until the sweat rolled from his
brow, and the anger rose from far above the Sacred Circle, and 10,000
years of tradition fell on the tongue of this Emcee. The silence could
be heard in the mountains, the streams, the forests, the valleys, the
furthest reaches of his spirit and his soul. He couldn’t remember
whether he was a storyteller or an Emcee. Sometimes it is all too clear!

This
was the first day. It was a two-day powwow. It has also been said that
the Creator is in the details. The Fire-keeper was a 15 year-old young
warrior and  wasn’t schooled in the art or told of the importance of
being the resident Fire-keeper. The Emcee had to remind him every other
hour to feed the fire. This was a minor detail?

The night
before there was a meeting with the drums, and there were other
officiates in presence. Everyone of importance was there including the
Emcee. They figured out a schedule for the events, and what order and
who, and how long everything would run like the planets in the cosmos.
Little did this Emcee know of Indian Time!

During
the heat of battle events were changed on the wing, in flight, in
mid-air. It was a trial by fire. When most everything was said and done
for the first day, the Emcee realized he hadn’t eaten anything all day,
he hadn’t been to the restroom to relieve himself, and he was seeing
everything with a yellowish tint. These may seem like small
insignificant matters but the pressure builds.

However,
right at that moment, when the Emcee was ready to act on these matters,
Andrew walked up to the Drum and everyone else that would listen, and
apologized for his behavior.  It was an apology from his heart. There
was no sneering, no shifty eyes from side to side, no recognizable
untruths in the tone of his voice. This was the proper protocol for the
day.

Now-ya-hey-yi…day two the pow-wow and the Sacred
Circle were in sync. For the mathematicians who deal with probability
and odds, super computers have been linked together by scientists and
that mathematical formula for finding the circumference of a circle:
“pi” , “22/7” or “3.14”, the scientist have carried the decimal point
1,000,000 decimal places. They have found no finite number or pattern
of numbers that satisfy that equation, and they never will. That is the
very nature of a circle. The Sacred Circle is very sacred!

Andrew
and myself will probably never be good friends, or will we ever go
hunting or fishing together, nor will we ever sit around the same fire
by invitation, but as we sit at our own individual fires and we are
surrounded by friends, we may tell this story in our own way and give
thanks, and we will be of one mind. Within the Sacred Circle, everything is possible!

At
the close of the event in retrospect there were a lot of “firsts” that
weekend.  I may have been the fool, and perhaps, I gained a bit of
wisdom; but I realized then and there, the most important lesson
learned from this Emcee and student was that the real Riverboat Pilot,
the Creator, has a sense of humor. Ah Ho!













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