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SCHEMITZUN!

Produced, Written & Directed by Kenneth A. Simon

Broadcast Premiere: 1999, CPTV

PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT

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In September 1998, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut sponsored their Seventh Annual Feast of Green Corn and Dance at a tribe-owned farm in North Stonington, Connecticut. 

About 2,000 dancers and 65 drum groups from North America competed for $800,000 in awards and recognition in the four-day competition.

It is the World Championship of Native-American song and dance.

LAUGHING WOMAN (Mashantucket Pequot Elder): Pow-wass is the gathering of people. Powwow --I donít know where that word came from, but is the gathering of Native Americans.  I think this is perhaps how Schemitzun got started: That we just wanted peoples to come, Native Americans united as one as the corn is so tightly woven together. Peoples of the first light,  to dance with us, to sing with us, to share in the eating of foods, the storytelling..

MICHAEL THOMAS (Mashantucket Pequot Councilor): To us it is a celebration that weíre still here. It is an opportunity to again, as we once did very often, share intertribal culture with other tribes and scream from the highest mountaintop that weíve never gone anywhere.

 

BOYE LADD (Powwow Consultant, Ho Chunk Nation): Powwow originated about 400 years ago among the Omaha people of the Central Plains. We look to Schemitzun as perhaps being our national finals, our biggest championship for the year.  Everyone looks forward to becoming the world champion. We come in and we win a championship and we go home we pride our people so that perhaps next year maybe weíll incorporate maybe two or three younger people that may want to chase the same dream.

 

GRAND ENTRY

 

BOYE LADD: The Grand Entry actually was created and evolved around rodeo. Eeryone gets an opportunity to see who the competition is, the people coming into the circle. We also carry in the flag. Youíll see the invocation. Itís quite similar to that of  rodeo, a chance to come in and warm-up, get preparation for the  competition and go-arounds.

 

I have danced professionally as a fancy dancer for over 45 years.  Iím just one of many, many champions that, you know, had our day one time or another, but now itís our turn to come in to teach, to get the young people, our children, to come forward and hopefully  exemplify some of the same feelings and emotions that we have gone through, to enjoy the same  highs as a champion. 

 

JOHNNY WHITECLOUD (Fancy Dancer, Otoe-Creek): The culture, the tradition, the spirituality, the language preservation, the song and dance - itís all meaningful  to all of us. 

 

Maz-ayre-os say juan-guz-a-duh -- it means to be searching, grasping in the dark for something to latch onto.  So this is how we hang onto our, all of our culture, spirituality and our traditions and still yet coexist, peacefully coexist in a dominant society. 

 

Thereís an inner pride in us to say be proud of - know who you are and where you come from.  Be proud of what you are, but at the same time never be arrogant, always walk in humbleness and humility and then in there always be bighearted and broadminded. 

 

The Warriorís Dream

 BOYE LADD:  We have our warrior societies. I come from a warrior society that believes in accomplishment by warriors, the feathers that we wear, the color, the designs, just like the medals you see on a warriorís chest, it also reflects in our regalia.  The  name giving, the feather giving, the whistle - the giving of the whistle - many of the ceremonial aspects of powwow derive from what the warriors had seen in battle

JOHNNY WHITECLOUD:  So in the old days there was fasting and there was preparation and the all night prayers.  You put on your very best regalia that maybe your wife and your mother or your families made for you and then your paint that you acquired from the spirits from the vision, and then fix your horse up same way.   If we should happen to die in battle to day we want to look our very best when we meet the Creator face to face. Thatís why you put on your very best.

 Now, thereís war journey songs they would sing, prayer songs to take them over there. Then thereís homecoming veteran songs  And the scouts would  say, wan-wasser-shay. The warriors have come home. So they all come out to the center of the village and they start singing the drums. These drums.  And there would be all types of emotion. There would be the mothers in grief and heavy-hearted because their son had got killed, maybe a wife or a husband got killed. Then the others attended to the wounded. And there are some that would really be happy because their sons came home all right.

So this Ha-dues-ka way would mean to get down off your horse and unbraid your hair and let your hair hang down  and while theyíre hitting that drum, dance. Dance in a sacred manner and thank the Creator that youíve made it home.   Later on the contests came and there is big money involved now.

 BOYE LADD:  This is the biggest celebration in the country as far as finance.  Today I  kind of look at powwow as a contemporary version of war as well because here youíll have cultural pride, youíll have tribal affiliation, tribal contests, tribal competition where each champion from each nation or tribe coming together in the spirit of competitiveness without the fear of actually hurting somebody or counting coup on someone - that they come together dancing.  Out of that comes pride, comes respect, comes this identity of being a member of a certain tribe maybe the world champion comes from.

 Marvin Burnette (Northern Traditional Dancer, Rosebud Sioux Lakota):   And we as Native people whenever we go to a powwow usually our third song is always a veteransí honoring song.  As warriors, we wear the eagle feather, we as veterans we respect the American flag, the red, white and  blue. And everyone of our events includes the American flag, although I cannot forget that the first flag was the Indian flag, a single eagle feather on a wooden staff.

 In 1924 the American government gave us citizenship status  to fight on behalf and defend their way of life. But we as Native people weíve always been very proud who we fight, where we fight, how we fight, and we put ill feelings aside. Nonetheless, call it America, call it Turtle Island, Indian  Island, itís always home to us, indigenous to us.  Fight for home every day. Every day,  because I canít forget what this eagle feather means that Iím wearing.    

 JOHNNY WHITECLOUD:  So we have forgiveness and  then we pray for the people that oppressed us  and there the Creatorís watching us and then heís going to bless our children accordingly.  We forgive so that we can carry on and have our children grow up in a real good way and  still hang onto their identity living in this dominant society

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