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Respect given and found

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  • Respect given and found

    Boozhoo niji,

    OK so I was at this little gathering here in Florida called Chasco festival. It is mostly a fair, witt midway rides and whatnot, but back in a little corner is where the NDNs would sing and dance, along with a handful of vendors. This gathering was kinda special for me because it is the last one for me in Florida before I move to Minnesota in a couple of months. I had no idea how special it would become.

    Let me rewind the tape a little. I am now 36 years old, but I only started fancy dancing about 10 years ago. I was northern traditional before that, only for a year or two, and it wasn't that good of an experience for me. I live in a place isolated from other people of my tribe. There is very little to learn from around me. My regalia was not all that good and I was getting laughed at pretty bad. Back then I didnt think I was good enough to even consider being a fancy dancer.

    I had a dream that changed all that, one I never told anyone about, and when I ignored it, an elder I know down here had the same dream, and told me to get started. I made the regalia, my mom did the sewing, and in about a year my life changed. I started dancing fancy, and people around here left me alone. Well, it was either that or they would not leave me alone.

    So I danced fancy for a couple of years and then started to travel a little further out, starting to hit a compition or two. When I would see the other fancy dancers out there, I pretty much kept my distance and gauged my competition. I didn't think I was better than them, I was to let the judges decide that. But I did repsect them, if for just being a fellow dancer. I chanced being friendly and well... it didn't go over so well. I don't know if they were just being complete jerks or they thought of me as a wannabe for my fair skin.

    So that experience left a bad taste in my mouth. I stuck with Florida and made a new set of bustles. Then I decided to go big, and hit Minnesota right where my mother came from, White Earth res. I did not really know what I was looking for, but what I was looking for found me, my people. There were over 550 dancers there, but I was the only fancy dancer there. They all kept asking me why I was there, because it was not a competition pow wow. I said there are other reasons than money. I was home. This word got around that a fancy dancer was there from Florida. It got down to Sunday and people were dancing their catagory for their payouts. I was exhausted. Then the MC got on the mic and announced a special treat, that a fancy dancer had come all the way from Florida, and could we get a song from the Boyz. That dance circle got huge. I do not remember much about that dance. I was running on fumes because i had been dancing on every intertribal. The only thing I do remember is at the end of it, the AD walked up to me holding two fist fulls of money and giving it too me. I elected to give it to the drum... after he showed me which direction it was.

    I returned to WE ever year for 4 years. Then I got a hernia and all but stopped dancing. I recovered went to a pow wow here or there. But I was missing one thing. I was not dancing with other fancy dancers. I guess it was time to compete again. I chanced going to Hollywood, Fla. Oh yeah, there were 15 of us there. There was a winner take all fancy special, so I entered. I didn't talk to anyone, for fear of getting the same treatment I had before. I didn't win. But thats ok. I still knew I was not as good as those other guys. But the winner did kind of strike me back... Michael Roberts.

    I knew that guy, but not really. I remember his picture from the CCTW catalog, the fancy dance book and the Robert Miribal video. He was not wearing the regalia that I knew him for though, so I didn't recognize him. That green, orange and yellow that he wears, to me, is the best. I wanted to make mine like that, not copy it, but make it as good, the same quality. I have worked on it for about 10 years and I still dont think its even close. I guess in a way I kind of idolzed him. I chanced talking to him but I really didn't know what to say. So I kept it short, just said hey and all.

    Then I got to meet him again at Chasco three years ago. This time he came to me and asked what I was doing here. I said I live close by, was going to try it out. But again it was small talk. I got to meet his family. Listened to stories from his dad and his brother Dale asked me to judge in a couple of contests. I got to watch a lot more fancy dancing, from the special they were running. it was for endurance, and I was the first to get tapped. Hey it was all fair, but I got to see some really cool stuff.

    Last year was better yet. There were only three of us, so I was guaranteed at least third place. Michael and I were talking now, kinda BSing and whatever. I judged again, danced again, got third and went home happy.

    This year though, this one was a crucible. Now in the past I had put up with other peoples negative remarks, talking behind my back and ignoring it saying to myself they didn't matter. I have taken bad criticism from elders that said I cant dance, which is true and I tried to grow from it. I admit it, I grew up knowing nothing about pow wows. I did not have the luxury of having someone close by to teach me how to make regalia or dance. I am not in a family that is in a position to hand me down eagle feathers or even help me go to the pow wows. I am there alone, literally. I go to the pow wow, I dance alone, I eat alone and I camp and sleep alone.

    I was not going to let my feelings get hurt if I didn't win. Sure I am going to move to Minnesota and I need the money, but I can make that in other ways. But it would be nice if it was easier. So Chasco had a special this year. I went. This time I didn't talk so much to Mike, but more his brother Dale and his wife. There was also another fancy dancer there named Doug (sorry bro forgot your last name) who was a really cool person to talk to. So the contest was on. There were five of us, the first round was a warm up, where one would be eliminated. Then one remaining would be picked to challenge another, each would dance solo. Then the other two, then the two best of those pairs.

    So we danced the warm up. I danced the best I can. We lined up, and I heard one of the judges mutter under his breath "You know the one" and the AD came and tapped me out. It was over in 5 seconds. I had lost, but I did get to see the remaining four dance, and compare their styles. I didn't mind losing, but that remark... I let it get to me. I felt like quitting, I felt like dieing. Worst of all I felt like I had wasted my entire life for lack of having anything accomplished at 36.

    It was a rough night but I woke up and decided I was going to at least finish this pow wow. I got there later than I would have wanted but still had time to walk around. We danced the grand entry and I was kind of despondent. I danced the few intertribals we had then I sat down and rested. The guy who won the special the night before came up, and gave me some of his winnings. It was not a whole lot, paid for dinner, but it was enough. I started feeling a lot better, got that spirit going again. He respected me enough to approach me and share his winnings. I thought that was pretty cool. So then we had one more contest song.

    I went out and we danced a straight song, I felt like I did pretty fair. Then we went into a ruffle. I started to really do those knee lifts and loosen up my stiff joints, and I was concentrating so much on that, that I grossly overstepped the end of the first start, like 5 steps. I was so embarrased I walked out of the circle and sat down. I was more mad at myself for for ruining a good ruffle. But it was over. I danced in a few more intertribals and then they announced the winners. Doug took third this time, Mike took first. Then the MC called my name out. I was not far away, had been talking to Doug before they called him. I went out there and Mike gave me one bill out of the envelope. The MC was talking, said it was something out of respect, I did not hear most of it, was just staring at that paper. Then Mike and the other three dancers shook my hand. I went back and got undressed, and found a red blanket that I used to sit my bustles on in the car. I rolled up some tobacco real quick in a piece of red felt and gave those to Mike.

    At that point, it did not feel like we were all dancers, but we were all people, maybe even brothers. What I was looking for found me, and I felt the better of it. I definatly feel like not quitting now. No, I am not stopping at all, not even slowing down. I feel like I am going to meet these guys up in Minnesota somewhere, dance with them again. Hey I might now win. Money is not everything, it only helps. Respect is everything and necessary. Mike and Doug, you gave me your, and you have mine.

    Chiimegwitch Doug, Michael and the rest of the Roberts family for making me feel like an equal.
    I believe in something I want to believe, not what someone wants me to believe.

  • #2
    That's really nice to hear. Sometimes we don't realize that the little things we do for people (and to people) can have a such a huge effect. I'm glad that simple act of kindness overcame all the negativity you'd been experiencing.


    • #3
      Thats really good. I expect ill catch alot of crap if/when i start dancing. I have brown hair and green eyes, and no CDIB.
      Come together, right now....Over me.


      • #4
        hey D, that was a really great story thanks for sharing with all of us.


        • #5

          Gotta say there is a genuine good vibe you put out.....The Roberts are down to earth good people....Keep looking 4ward my friend....As you experienced its worth it....
          "She also has a very soft skin. The only trouble with snake women is they copulate with horses, which makes them strange to me. She say's she doesn't. That's why I call her "Doesn't Like Horses". But, of course, she's lying."


          • #6
            Miigwech everyone,

            I feel like my life can do nothing but go forward at this point. It has been a low time, I lost my mom in June and have been going through a lot here at home. My life here has not improved here and my job is as far as I can get. Its not what I would call a dead end job, being a mechanic I don't have to worry about finding work. But, you cannot get much farther, cannot increase the payscale much and certainly am not going to become rich from it.

            But the future seems to be opening up to me. I plan on making two new sets of regalia when I get up north, and more importantly learn more about my traditions. Most importantly I hope to start my own family, pass on those traditions down to a younger generation. To me that is the most important thing.

            I believe in something I want to believe, not what someone wants me to believe.


            • #7
              I'm glad to hear that you are doing well.

              That sounds like a very good thing, to learn your traditions. Natives have to keep our traditions alive. And I wish you all the best in starting a family, teach them well my friend. :)
              Come together, right now....Over me.


              • #8
                When are you moving to Minnesota?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by ndnsooner View Post
                  When are you moving to Minnesota?
                  Ah man, originally I was planning the last weekend of April. I took on this side job putting a facelift on a boat, and the job is taking longer than I expected. So then I was hoping for before mothers day. Heh, that is comming up now in a couple of weeks, so I am hoping to have the boat done by Mothers day and then be in Minn before June, I hope.

                  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for the boat job, then its just a couple of other little things I HAVE to do, kinda depending on this old van and trailer to move my stuff, and its the rez van from way back.

                  I am not going into how much gas is rising, and the longer I wait, the more it will cost. I got to do this pretty quick. Right now with the money from the boat, I should have enough for gas.

                  I believe in something I want to believe, not what someone wants me to believe.


                  • #10
                    I wish you all the luck in the world.
                    Come together, right now....Over me.


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