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Job of Arena Director

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  • Job of Arena Director

    I know what the general job of the arena director is, but how far does his authority go? I've often heard that he's "responsible" for everything that goes down in the arena.

    There's been lots of talk on this board lately about wannabes dancing in horrible pseudo outfits and being disrespectful. Would this fall under the auspices of the AD? If so, I would think it would be advantageous for all pow wows to have more than one AD. I know big ones like Denver do, but it might help at smaller ones (especially eastern ones) to have this in place to keep things moving in a way everyone at the dance wants things to run. What does eveyrone think?

  • #2
    I think that it mainly falls on the whipman to take disciplinary actions, or act the offensive person to leave. If there is no whipman, then it would fall to the arena director.


    • #3
      Simple explaination. Southern dances don't have whipmen. They have arena directors.


      • #4
        Whipman is the traditional name of the arena director. White people coined that term for the man who was directing things in the circle.

        whipman in the circle
        Director of the arena?

        sounds like an anglo term to me :D

        but it has stuck so people use it now although I prefer the term whipman.

        [ June 27, 2001: Message edited by: Riverwind ]
        A Warrior without character is nothing more than a brute.

        I have lots of freinds, you just cant see them:)


        • #5
          Beth is right on here definition of a "Whip Man". It has been considered a Northern Term for what we in the Southern parts of the country would call an "Arena Director"

          You will find "Whip Men" at formal war dances to keep the dancer moving and off the benches.

          The Arena Director today MAY have the responsibility of making sure the dance area is set up correctly, the drums get their coffee-water-food-messages, Grand Entry runs as schedualed (if at all possible) and stop any problems that may arise with dancers in the dance arena.

          I have been an Arena Director and I can tell you it is not easy. I always get permission to get others to help me if it is a big dance. One of my biggest problems was getting spectators out of the dancing area without offending them. They are allowed to dance on some specials, but not in the general dances with out some proper dance cloths. Don't ask me to explain that here.

          Biggest problem I ever had was a woman who was too big to be wearing the two peice outfit (cut off top and short shorts)she had on dancing in without at least a shawl. And the wording on her shirt was very inapropriat for the dance. And she kept saying she could dance because she was an Indian. She was not drunk....she was a card carrying Indian....but that outfit is where I draw the line. Some arena directors will take ask dancers to leave if the dancing is interfering with others or the dance outfit is not in good taste. Notice I did not say appropriat. It is very hard to tell a Card carrying Indian that that Bear Skin cape and underware are not exactly what you would like to see in the circle. And I do not mean REd longjohns of the old style dancers.

          Arena Dirctors must have a good knowledge of past, present and maybe future dance styles, clothing and political savy.



          • #6
            Ikce Wicasa

            The job of the AD is a hard thing to define since so many areas do things so differently and many areas have adapted powwows to their own tribal/regional tastes. I know the way I was taught (which is southern in origin) the head singer basically runs the dance and by that I mean that he has final say on matters if he is needed too (though in nearly all instances the AD and MC handle things without the head singers input just fine). However in these days of contests, big dances and multiple drums (not to mention multiple host drum traditions) it is even more difficult to discern the job description of the AD. I have even seen some areas that have a head veteran dancers and he has the final say in all matter, above and beyond that of the drum, AD, MC and even the committee. (hey to each his own I guess)

            As for my opinion, and this applies to the smaller dances that I think you are referring to. I feel that the AD serves many roles. He take care of the arena/dance grounds by setting things up, addressing things like holes or sweeping the arena if needed and taking care of the elderly in attendance. He makes sure the dancer are out dancing, the drum(s) are well taken care of and he acts as a runner between the MC, committee and head singer/host drums. I do feel that the AD has the duty of politely asking folks that are disrespectful in dance or outfit, to address their deficiencies or reframe from participating. Of course this is only if that course of action is approved by the powwow comittee/sponsers. I actually think that the AD at all dances should have several people under his charge for the function of assisting him in his duties (like a couple of assistant AD's, water boys and someone to take care of the drum(s)).

            "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." Pablo Picasso

            "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift...that is why is it called the Present." Master Oogway - KungFu Panda

            My comments are based on what I have been taught and my experiences over the years I have been around the circle. They should in no way be taken as gospel truths and are merely my opinions or attempts at passing on what I have learned while still learning more.


            • #7
              Actually, what I meant was that in this area of the country, they usually have a whipman or whipwoman (or both) PLUS an arena director. The status of whipman to many tribes here is a hereditary title.


              • #8
                Let me start by saying a heart felt thank you to all of our veterans.

                My question is this: If 2 veterans have different traditions as to a certain protocal, which one is followed? Is it the veteran that is the oldest, full blooded versus mixed, if one is on the committee, or which one yells the loudest? How is this issue addressed and ultimately resolved?

                I don't think there is one absolutely always right or one absolutely always wrong way to do something. They are just both different.

                Thank you. ctn


                • #9
                  Nowadays with powwows being so intertribal, it's hard when problems of protocol come up. And in different parts of the country powwows are run differently. So I would say that in resolving situations, at a tribally-hosted powwow, you would go with what the hosting tribe's traditions are. If it is an inter-tribal urban powwow, it would be up to the powwow committee, but it's usually a group decision, with the MC, arena director, whipman/woman, elders, head dancers, and powwow committee all having their input.


                  • #10
                    Here in the Pacific NW I've seen powwows that have an Arena Director AND a Whip Man. Perhaps it sounds better when using two people, to use both terms rather than calling someone "assistant AD" or "assistant WM".

                    Billy Sutton (Colville) and Arnold Little Head (Lakota) were AD and WM, respectively at the Sauk-Suiattle powwow this year. Billy appeared to take on the administrative tasks and work "in the background" while Arnold directed protocol and interacted more with the dancers, drums and audience. I might add that both men did a fine job and are appreciated by many.

                    SHAMELESS PLUG: Arnold Little Head will be AD at the Muckleshoot Sobriety Powwow coming up July 27-29, one of the larger contest powwows in western Washington. Host drum is Black Lodge.
                    "Friends don't let friends drink decaf..."
                    Wakalapi's $49 unlimited phone service


                    • #11
                      Traditionally was the arena director a veteran? With the end of the draft there are fewer veterans. Over time the "younger" generations is moving into these roles. Is/should he still be a veteran? What other qualifications are now needed to hold such a position?

                      Thank you for your responses. ctn


                      • #12
                        I figured I'd put my two cents in. In Hethuska dances the "whipman" or Wa-no-zhi means police, soldier, or guard type individual. In this setting they control the things that go on in that arena. Who sits where, pick up what has dropped, speaks for folks on giveaways, makes the dancers get up and dance etc. They are also in charge of getting the grounds ready for the dance. They often will recrute the Tail Dancers or Tsi-tse Wa-tsi to help in this aspect. The Whipman will also take care of any problems that occur, which may include the removal of unwanted individuals from the dance. An other important aspect to the job is to go to the different committees and personally invite them to the dance. As you can see there are alot of similarities but there are major differances between AD and the Whipman of these ceremonies. I just wanted to clairify the Whipman's role in the Hethuska or formal war dance. But I do have a question about where the term Formal War Dance came from? I have really only heard it refered to as Hethuska, Ilonshka, Irooshka, Grassdance etc. Maybe someone could tell us.
                        Tha-ke'-tha-pi Wa-kon-ta


                        • #13
                          Having spent much time in Oklahoma, I've learned that the whip man and AD are two different positions, with two different sets of responsibilities. As far as I know, in the North and the South, the two terms are not interchangeable. Have no idea what a formal war dance is either, but I can ask around. Other warrior societies in the south, such as black leggins and gourd clan, have a whipman and AD, which are permanent positions in those societies.


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