Thinking about Powwows During a Pandemic

It’s springtime in the middle of a pandemic and between the hand washing, concern, disinfecting, and time spent in prayer, I’m thinking about powwows.

It’s been about five years since I last attended a powwow, but last week my husband and I made fry bread. As soon as I bit into that golden delicious goodness, I could hear the drums and the dancing. Taste can help me remember so much.

My mind drifted to solo jingle dancers in empty rooms, each step bringing healing. I remembered I caught word of a virtual powwow taking place online, where vendors could still sell their wares. I thought about how I know people who depend on the money they can make at powwows and I prayed they were okay. I call around to family. It’s a blessing. Everyone’s alright.

For the past 12 years I’ve spent much time in isolation. Most days the only person I see is my husband and it feels like it was a preparation for these times. I’ve missed people for a long time, I won’t lie. I miss them more now. I’ll think about powwows every spring, that last one I attended still fresh in my mind like it happened yesterday. I don’t know how to stop praying. How to stop laying tobacco down. How to stop sending up sage smoke in hope. No one else has to, but I believe Creator is listening.

My heart aches for those who are financially struggling. For the hungry. For the lonely. Especially for those who are sick. I’m doing all within my power to help with that and I know it’s not much, but it’s all I can give. I’m in a constant state of gratitude for all I do have. Mostly for the “good” health. I put that in quotes because I am chronically ill, and as I type there’s a beast in my polycystic covered kidney that feels like it’s taking a bite out of that vital organ, but I’m healthy from the invisible enemy right now. I don’t even like to say its name because that gives it power. I’m here and now. I don’t even want to try to predict the uncertain future. I don’t want to try to figure out what went wrong. I just want to be and enjoy whatever I can out of that state of being.

I’m going to put on my ribbon skirt, play some drum music, tap my toes because I’m in too much pain to try and dance. I’m going to visualize a powwow. I’m going to picture my friends and family and pray they are nestled together, safe in their homes. I’m going to believe we all can make it. Being indigenous has taught me of the resiliency of people and I’m going to hold onto that.

I’m going to keep thinking about powwows. I’m going to look at my husband who’s been home with me for about a month, and be thankful. I’m going to write. Sing. I’m definitely going to keep praying. I’m going to turn my Powwow Playlist up loud.

I’m going to hold you all in my heart. Stay safe and healthy.

This poem of mine from last year was in my head while I wrote this, so I’m going to share it here:

Phantom Dance

I hear in my heart the drum beat,
Powwow season always does this to me

The jingle dress clang,
how loud we sang

last time we gathered,
when homesick hearts shattered,

when the swooping hawk at sunset
told me stories of regret,

when we parted with no goodbye,
looks of knowing in our eyes

that we’d return even if it took years
The earth songs still echo in my ears

Reminders of home and my People,
gifted feathers of great bald eagle

calling across desert and plain
stirring my spirit again and again

Published by Jennifer Patino


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