June 14, 2014 Updated: June 15, 2014 at 9:12 am
Jerry Fills Pipe, a Denver resident and member of the Oglala Lakota tribe of South Dakota, says he tries to attend as many Native American powwows as he can.
Under warm blue skies and in breezy conditions Saturday, Fills Pipe was part of the Native American Veterans of Colorado color guard that participated in a Colorado Springs Indian Center powwow, held on the grounds of the Colorado Springs Flea Market, west of Platte Avenue and Powers Boulevard in the Springs.
Honoring culture, Fills Pipe said, is as much a tradition as the dances, songs and other activities that took place Saturday.
"These are a gathering of nations," he said. "They come together to celebrate life, to go ahead and sing traditional songs. The dancers come out to dance to the drums, the heartbeat of mother earth. To go ahead and keep the culture going. Whatever tribe you're from."
Saturday's powwow was the first day of a weekend gathering, and a first for the non-profit Colorado Springs Indian Center, said Jim Bear Running Montoya, a Springs resident and the center's 2014 board president. In the past, the center had participated with other organizations in their powwows, but "it's time we do our own powwow," he said.
The powwow included a traditional grand entry or opening parade of dancers, the honor guard and singing and drums by the Rocky Mountain Singers and the Standing Bear Singers, both of Denver.
Arena dances for men, women and veterans highlighted much of the day-long gathering, while jewelry, leather and other crafts, along with food, were available at nearly 20 booths. Children, meanwhile, took part in dances as they learned Native American traditions.
Rae Maio, a Springs resident and member of the Crow tribe of South Dakota and Wyoming, said she came Saturday to support others.
More than a century ago, Native Americans traded leather and other goods for food during their powwows, Maio said. That tradition carries on today, except that powwow participants might be trading goods as a way to raise money to help family members with medical problems, she said.
Several tribes - including Apache, Navajo, Cheyenne and Osage - were represented Saturday, while participants came from around Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, among other places, Montoya said.
"A powwow is a gathering of people," said Montoya, who is part Mescalero Apache. "It doesn't matter - white, black, yellow, red. It's a way to meet old friends and to meet new friends. And it's time to have a good time with the family."
About 600 to 800 people had come to Saturday's powwow through mid-afternoon, Montoya said, and he hoped more would attend Sunday as families get together in honor of Father's Day. Sunday's powwow takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Flea Market grounds, 5225 E. Platte Ave.
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