Raritan Pow Wow

Back to the Raritan Pow Wow this year. I didn’t realize we’d gotten in so close to the ground floor and started coming to this in only its third year. We arrived in time to catch the Aztec Mexica dancers and eat our Indian Tacos before the grand entry.

Grand Entry is always fun. Still much smaller than what we’re used to at Stanford but it’s getting bigger. Boys are older and the weather was better so we got to watch a couple dance competitions as well. Those are fun even though we don’t know what the judges are looking for. It’s always interesting to compare who we think is good versus who the judges like. Men’s traditional we had no idea. Women’s Fancy Shawl though we did much better.

I didn’t quite have the right camera equipment so I had to make do with the kit setup. I did okay though. Autofocus is kind of handy for a change.


Raritan Powwow

One of the things we’ve missed from California is the Stanford Powwow. It was a bit of a tradition for us to go every Mothers Day weekend and I had a few photo posts resulting from those visits.

When the kids were little we just caught the Aztec dancers and ate dinner. I was looking forward to showing them the competition dancing spending more time just hanging out but we moved away before getting to that point.

I’ve been checking the Redhawk Council site for a few years now to see if there were any local powwows that we could go to. This year was the first time that the local even matched up with our calendar so I made sure I had that day clear on my calendar.


First order of business of course was to get fry bread. I haven’t had a proper Indian Taco since my last powwow. Yes I had one at the National Museum of the American Indian but it was merely adequate—much better than most museum food but not the real deal.

Since we got to the powwow just after it opened all the food booths were just warming up. The downside of this is that we missed the Aztec dancers because we were waiting or our food to be prepared. The upside? Freshly-made fry bread. It turns out both boys love the tacos and probably don’t need the fresh fruit topping on the bread either. I figured they would eventually but it’s always good to find out their tastebuds are developing properly.

After we ate we were able to find a space next to the dancing ground and got to watch the Grand Entry. Where the Stanford Powwow MC is kind of a comedian, the Raritan MC is much more serious and treats the event as an opportunity to educate the audience about what the powwow means and what the ceremonial aspects of the Grand Entry are.

There was also a lot of references to the Raritan people and how we were on their land even though they had been removed to Oklahoma and Wisconsin. And in the portion of the Grand Entry when Veterans are acknowledged and honored, water protectors from Standing Rock were included and explicitly thanked along with the military veterans.

While the powwow is always a political act celebrating surviving a genocide and remembering their cultures, I appreciate the politics of it becoming even more explicit in reminding everyone that parts of that genocide are still being attempted.

For someone used to the huge crowd of dancers at the Stanford Powwow, this one was much much smaller. I didn’t take a ton of photos but I took a few. Smaller crowd meant that I had a ring-side seat and didn’t have to pick my shots based on who I could see through a gap in the crowd.

If it wasn’t so cold I think we would’ve stayed longer. I’m hoping next year we can go again, stay longer, and watch more of the dancing.








Pow Wow Follow-up

It’s also fun to see some of the same people year after year and notice what they’ve added to and changed.

Yesterday’s Pow Wow post

Some examples of this.

First, Blanket (the name he gave me) who contacted me in 2009 for a copy of my photo of him. I’ve noticed him each year since and it’s been interesting to watch him get older and see how his regalia changes.




And, while I don’t know his name, I recognize him each year and have come to look forward to seeing what he’s wearing. Despite being fully serious during the Grand Entry, he’s been super generous about posing, and smiling, for photos with anyone who asks him outside.



Pow Wow 2013


Another year, another Pow Wow. Time for fry bread, drums, and dancing.

In the sprit of my human zoo post, I’m not just going to present photos without comment. Most of the photos are of the Aztec Dancers—actually a local group called Calpulli Tonalehqueh who I grew up watching at the Santa Clara County fair as well as at the Stanford Pow Wow.

On a smaller scale where only a handful of dancers perform, the Aztec dances act out various myths. The huge troop dance here though serves more as entertainment during meal times than as part of the Pow Wow proper. Which is why I tend to see them every year since a large portion of my Pow Wow experience is based on getting an Indian taco for dinner.

Also, from a photography point of view, the Aztec regalia is consistently the most photogenic (in a flashy OMG colors and feathers and movement way) and they perform during the best time of day for taking photos.


Some years there are other special performances.* This year was one such year as we were treated to Miwok dancing. Much of the pow wow dancing is tribe-generic (though of plains-based origen) so it’s especially nice to see the tribe-specific forms and support the people who have been preserving these traditions. The Miwok are sort of the big local tribe but I’ve never seen any of their dancing before.

*The top image in my previous post is of the Tlingit Raven Dance. It was exceedingly cool to watch. Gene Tagoban is quite the performer and storyteller.

I was busy eating during much of their performance so I can’t fully describe everything. But it’s notable how their regalia covers their eyes to signify the state of being the dancers are in while dancing. And I should note that I’m not quite comfortable using the word “performance” when describing their dances since the dancing still felt like a small, private event.


I also caught some of the grand entry before the light started to fail. It’s always nice to see all the different regalia. It’s also fun to see some of the same people year after year and notice what they’ve added to and changed.

One of these days when the kids are older, we’ll stay longer and watch the competitions again.


One other note. Every year it seems I receive a flickr message or two from someone I photographed at the pow wow asking for a copy of the photo I took of them. I always send them a copy of my original. It’s funny, even though it’s a small thing, it makes me feel as if I’m participating in it.