SHERIDAN — About four years ago, 14-year-old 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 Friday 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.
Spotted is quick to smile but takes dancing seriously.
His father, Kenny Spotted, remembered his son declaring his intentions.
“He always had the interest,” Kenny Spotted said. “One day he told us, ‘I’m going to dance.’”
After that, Kenny Spotted talked with his father, who often danced in powwows in the 1950s and ‘60s, about encouraging his son’s passion. Shortly after, the immediate and extended family helped put together some of Alberto’s powwow outfits. He wears his grandfather’s bustle, which is made of feathers and is worn on his back.
Alberto usually takes part in several powwows each year. He had to practice dancing in rhythm but enjoys putting his personal flair on the style while dancing. Alberto said he particularly enjoys the Crow hop and Crow chicken dance. He is the oldest of four children and is encouraging his younger siblings to try to dance.
Although Kenny Spotted doesn’t dance much, he cherished watching his son take part in the longstanding tradition.
“It’s just a big old celebration,” Kenny Spotted said. “Just trying to enjoy the beautiful day and festivities.”
Alberto also participated in the Sheridan WYO Rodeo parade Friday morning, something powwow organizer Butch Jellis appreciated.
“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.”
Jellis helped revitalize the Sheridan powwow about 15 years ago and said this year had the largest turnout, with about 300 Crow members in the parade and around 250 in the powwow.
The strong turnout encouraged Jellis. Last year’s powwow almost became the last for the event when what he described as a few racial incidents occurred.
“We got to the bottom of [those incidents],” Jellis said.
Jellis is gradually passing the organization of the event to his daughter, Tasha Iron, who is now the official parade and powwow director.
It entails basically 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.”
Indeed, and Alberto Spotted and his fellow powwow participants certainly had the rhythm Friday.