Sioux Empire Wacipi

As promised in my bio, I’ll be writing about travel, art, and culture in hopes to inspire you to get out, see the world, and sometimes, feel a bit uncomfortable. That lack of comfort you feel when you experience new things tells you there is something there to learn.

Today’s blog is about the first ever, Sioux Empire Wacipi held February 26-28, 2016 at the Arena in Sioux Falls, SD. What is a Wacipi? That’s the Dakota word for Pow Wow.

The Sioux Empire Wacipi had over 500 tribes represented from the United States and Canada. My husband, Brian and I attended the first night. This included a grand entry with American Indian veterans carrying in the American, tribal, and veteran’s flags. Following the veteran’s were visiting dignitaries and royalty. I had no idea there were so many young princesses from across the nation. They were dressed in beautiful, elaborate dresses, and some wore sashes similar to the beauty pageant queens you see on TV. The royalty is selected competitively to represent a specific Wacipi.

The Grand Entry ended with a prayer to the Creator. Everyone stood silently in respect. My research shows there may also be honor songs following and you also should stand for those. My tip, watch and listen carefully and follow the others to make sure you are respectful of their traditions.

Oh, and an honor song is sung for an individual who has passed into the Spirit World, graduated from school, received an accolade, or perhaps received an Indian name. Everyone is invited to come and pay their respects by gently shaking the hands of the family of the one honored and then joining the line behind them to finish the dance around the Arena. At this event, there was no honor song. I hope to see that in the future.

After the prayer, a march of all of the dancers began to fill the Arena floor. It was the most beautiful blend of colors and dance. Hundreds of dancers of all ages, man and women danced while the drums played. Uplifting is the only way to explain the feeling of seeing the sea of dancers.

The drum groups, are organized groups from different communities. They too, like the dancers are there to compete. You’ll see on large drum in the center of a circle of men and microphone hanging centrally above them all. They each take turns singing and drumming for the dancers. It is magical to hear and you can’t help but move your feet to the rhythm. At this Wacipi there were I believe 18 drum groups lining the Arena floor. Honestly, it already looked like they needed a larger venue. There were so many drums and so many dancers.

I greatly enjoyed watching all of the dancers preparing for this event. Mothers and fathers were helping kids with their hair, which they carefully braided and wrapped with colorful ribbons, and followed up with intricate beaded pieces. Layers of beaded and feathered pieces are added to the final outfit. You can see all of the thought put into the clothing. There are infinite combinations of items and I learned some items are symbolic. If you’d like to read more on the clothing, the regalia, check out this excellent article.

With that, I’d just like to say always do some research before hand when traveling or attending cultural events to make sure you are respectful. After all, why experience such an event if you aren’t going to bring back some new knowledge and a fresh perspective.

I plan to always include some photos with my blogs and try to keep them short, with references, for a quick read. Thanks for joining me on my journeys.




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