Monday, September 7, 2009

Native Pride Gathering

On our last day in Maine Jay and I were lucky enough to stumble on a Native American powwow hosted by Metis of Maine. Because it was what they termed an informal powwow rather than a formal religious ceremony the rules were a bit more relaxed than I gather they normally are. With the exception of the smudging ceremony and the first three dances they were allowing visitors to take photographs, but it was obvious that it was still quite a serious event with rules and expectations I couldn't know as an outsider. I asked one of the participants what was acceptable etiquette-wise and she explained that informal "scenes" were fine, but that full-on portraits of anyone should only be taken with their express permission (of course, and I was glad to hear that most of the participants would likely be proud to grant permission). It was over 90 degrees that day and the dancers in particular had to be sweltering in those long deerskin clothes but you would never have known it from the beauty and grace and strong show of reverence they brought to each of the steps and from the haunting notes of the singers' chanting.
These photographs were taken under fairly challenging conditions with scorching mid-day sun, strong shadows, and the lack of a short lense, but most of all I tried to take them discretely, without overstepping my place as an observer or interfering with the powerful actions occuring in the circle in front of me. This meant placing myself further out of the action than I would normally be, far enough away that I was outside the main circle of spectators as well. It does mean the images have a more distant feel than I would have liked, but it was what the circumstances clearly dictated. I hope that those who saw me there agree, or better yet, that they never noticed me intruding on their moment at all.
This guy has his eyes closed but he was so impressive looking that I included the photo anyway, I hope he won't mind.
This is the lovely woman who with her companion took the time to answer my etiquette questions about who and what were acceptable to photograph and explained a bit to me about what I was seeing and what it meant. I'm so grateful, the added knowledge really enriched my experience. (And isn't her dress gorgeous? Look at all those delicate flowers.)
Click to enlarge any of these images, and visit Work of the Poet for more photos with a little or a lot of red in them.


Flea said...

They're absolutely beautiful.

This Eclectic Life said...

What a treat! You took some delightful photos of what looks to be a wonderful experience! Did you hear any Native American storytelling?

Ellie said...

These are so cool! I wish I could try some of the outfits. May be I should do some research and make a Cherokee outfit for the boys - after all they are both born in the Appalachia :) So colorful and natural!

Carletta said...

These are marvelous images!
The Pow-wow's are always interesting and beautiful events.

kayerj said...

I have seen several of these types of Native dancing groups, mostly Navajo.

Leora said...

What wonderful outfits. I liked reading about the woman who was helpful in explaining more to you.

amanda said...

Robin these are so cool, that woman's dress really is Gorgeous. I looked up some info on this tribe along with using the link you provided and they are an interesting group of people. Lovely photos thanks for sharing your experience.

Mojo said...

I went to a similar event last fall here (only it was below freezing with a wicked wind chill). That was actually a performance rather than any kind of ceremony, so the rules on photography were much more lax. But all the same, the rule of "if they don't ever notice you you did it right" still applies.

I've found that if you're genuinely interested in learning about [fill in the blank] there's almost always going to be somebody who's willing to help you do it. Especially when it's a cultural thing. And those people are usually much better sources of information than the mainstream-ized version edited for the general public.

Wherever it is, an event like this always gives up a host of great photo ops.

Daryl said...

what an enriching experience ... thank you for sharing it

Lynn said...

There are some truly lovely costumes here, and a great job of photography despite the difficult circumstances. Thanks for sharing.

Ralph said...

These are such beautiful outfits. I am glad that the protocol and etiquette allowed for the photos.

We Americans don't often pay attention to our own family traditions, let alone the traditions of others. You captured in Maine a proud tradition, one that hasn't been forgotten...

Mamí♥Picture said...

☼¨`*•.♥awesome shots♥.•*¨`☼
They are full of FUN!!
Thanks for sharing!
Have a Lovely♥Day!
To view my Ruby Tuesday you can visit my kiddos blog @
See ya!☺!

Robin said...

No storytelling unfortunately, but the singers and dancers were mesmerizing.

Auntie E said...

Great shots. My Dad is Creek Indian. I would have loved to have been there.

Anonymous said...

That's a very unusual series. But then the event was rather unusual too wasn't it?

marian said...

WOW what fabulous the embellishments!

Felisol said...

A beautiful series of photographs from Native American ceremonies. Their costumes and proud attitude are impressing.
So are you.
I feel proud about the way you asked for information and showed respect before taking the pictures.
A lesson in good behavior to all of us.
I completely fell in love with the young man in deerskin clothing. The firm and protecting way he's holding his Mother or grandmother's hand, gripped my heart.
from Felisol

Dianne said...

it's so lovely that you were so respectful

the dress is beautiful, as is her slight smile

all the photos are wonderful

Miranda said...

Beautiful costumes!

Becca said...

Gorgeous pics! I love all of the red costumes people are posting!

Martha said...

Beautiful photos. I would love to experience something like this!


(I have missed reading your blog recently, so far behind on commenting each week it seems. I hope you had a wonderful holiday in the States, I will have to go back and catch up!)


Heidi said...

Fantastic ruby finds! I love the one shot of the fuzzy haired fellow. Nice post!
And thanks for stopping by my blog!

Shannon said...

Absolutely gorgeous! Those garments are amazing!

Patti said...

Beautiful shots and an interesting post, Robin.

The woman who was helpful looks like a truly kind person. Her dress is pretty.

I like all of the colorful costumes you captured! (slight alliteration)

Happy RT a day late. We were without Internet for nearly a day. No fun.

maryt/theteach said...

Robin thanks for sharing your excellent photos of Native American culture and celebration. Great RT post! :)

RivkA with a capital A said...

Wow, how did you find these people?!

When I was a kid, I really wanted to be an Indian (the term "Native American" was not coined yet)

I really wanted long straight black hair and I wanted a dearskin dress with Indian beads and lots of fringes, and of course mocassins with fringes too.

Kim said...

Those are great pictures Robin. I love watching Native American dancers and listening to the chants and drums. Something about the sound of it just calls to my soul.

Robin said...

Me too RivkA, me too. Desperately.

And Kim, I totally agree. There's just something magical and mystical about it that speaks to your very core.

Anonymous said...

Very nice photos.Greeting!