During Mondays in April I’ve highlighted poems, a nod to April’s Poetry Month. I had a completely different subject and poem for today, but my experiences yesterday made me toss that post aside. I attended the 14th Chumash and Inter-Tribal Pow Wow in Malibu Bluffs Park, Malibu, California. This is an annual event but the first time I’ve attended as a guest of friends who are Lakota dancers. It was a privilege to sit with the dancers, their family and friends under the canopy ringside to the dance circle.
Next to me sat Saginaw, an revered elder, pictured above in his Grass-dancer Regalia, on the bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He is around 80 years old and still participates in several dances. An introduction was made and I shared some raspberry cheese danish with him.
In the circle of canopies sat people from several tribes, each in regalia particular to their area. The beauty of the shawls with their ribbons or embroidered scenes, intricate beading, and body markings made me think of poetry, the poetry of clothing. Every item full of meaning.
From the Grand Entry of Flags, where the US Flag is held along with Tribal flags and the State Flag, the poetry of their reverence and songs filled the area. Drumbeats punctuated dancer’s foot steps, flutes mimicked birds, native language and calls surrounded everyone. It’s as if you are transported into another realm– like poetry.
After the Grand Entry, Saginaw rose and asked for a few minutes before the beginning of the program. He shared that one of the families had just lost their son a few days before. He was a young Marine, killed in an Osprey helicopter accident, in Morocco. The family stood next to Saginaw, the mother holding an 8 x10 photo of a handsome young man in his Marine uniform. His death left a young widow and their two year old daughter. Saginaw prayed for the family and asked for our prayers.
Let your thoughts be with the living
During this time, two ducks waddled across the dance area. When he finished they flew away. The Marine’s mother walked to Saginaw’s side and whispered something. He told the audience that she related that her cell phone tone for her son was a duck call. Saginaw said that in the many, many years of Pow Wows, he could not recall any ducks flying into the dance circle. “Be in your grief, he is fine, he is in peace,” Saginaw said.
As a tribute to the fallen warrior, the Crooked Feet drum circle began this song created by the Blacklodge Singers of Washington State, lead by Kenny Robe of the Blackfeet Nation:
Soldier Boy, Soldier Boy
World War I, World War II, Vietnam
Soldier Boy, Soldier Boy
Wounded Knee, Vietnam, Desert Storm
The plaintive poetry of the song was not lost on anyone. People stood, hats came off, tears fell, heads bowed, families mourned, strangers shared.