Several years ago, teenager and Crow Tribe member Alberto Spotted became seriously interested in powwow dancing. At school in Wyola, Montana, Spotted learned about Crow history and tradition on a daily basis during a cultural class.
“She would just make us dance,” Spotted said of his cultural studies teacher.
The dancing lessons appealed to Spotted, and last year represented his third time participating in the First People’s Powwow at the Historic Sheridan Inn as part of Sheridan WYO Rodeo Week. Donning a pink top, black pants, brown moccasins, bells, a Superman necklace and various colors of feathers, Spotted celebrated Crow history and culture with hundreds of other tribe members.
Powwow organizer Butch Jellis helped revitalize the powwow about 15 years ago and said 2018 had the largest turnout, with about 300 Crow members in the parade and around 250 in the powwow.
“I saw hundreds of Crow along the parade route, which has grown tremendously,” Jellis said. “It never used to be that way … You don’t have a parade if you don’t have these Crows in this parade.”
The strong turnout encouraged Jellis. The 2017 powwow almost became the last for the event due to a variety of reasons.
Making the event a reality entails a year-round planning and fundraising process and can be a challenge to determine how many visitors for which to plan.
“It’s tough to put the money together,” Jellis said. “It’s just a whole community effort.”
Jellis enjoyed seeing Crow children grow up over the years and continue the tradition.
“I’ve watched little kids who could barely tie on a saddle, and now they’re relay racers and rodeo queens and princesses,” Jellis said.
He loves hearing the beat of the drum during the parade and ensuing powwow.
“To watch these little kids putting their feet down with the beat of the drum or clapping and moving their hands with the beat of the drum, or bobbing their head with the beat of the drum,” Jellis said. “It’s all natural, the beat of this drum. We all have this rhythm.”
To soak up some tradition featuring dancers and participants from several Native American tribes, stop by the Sheridan Inn Friday, July 12, after the parade.
Downtown Sheridan Association staff will again take the lead organizing the event, which is free and open to the public.
Editor’s note: This story was published in 2019 Destination Sheridan, Sheridan WYO Rodeo. Read more online, pick up a complimentary copy of the magazine at The Sheridan Press or find it in businesses and racks across Sheridan County.