I attended my first Pow Wow today in Taos, New Mexico. A Pow Wow is a sacred gathering of many Indian tribes where children, men, and women compete for dancing prizes as other tribal members sing and beat huge thunder drums.
Excitement rushed through me when the announcer signaled the girls’ dance. The drummers began beating the huge thunder drum. The singers began to chant in languages I did not understand. About 20 little girls, ages three to five, entered the circle, nodded to one another, and began to move their moccasined feet to the loud beats of the drum—all except one little girl who stood motionless, desperately looking in the direction of her family. I watched as the rest of the young girls whirled and swirled in time with the drums. For the first few drum measures, none of the girls in the circle noticed the one who did not move. Only her silent tears moved.
People watched, whispered, and pointed in the direction of the little girl dressed in white leather, red beads in her hair, and immaculate, new, white beaded moccasins. Then one of the older girls—she was perhaps five years old—noticed this girl and stopped dancing. As if by a silent command, each dancer stopped abruptly although the loud drumming continued. In one unified, swooping movement, all the girls surrounded the crying girl, creating a wall of protection around her.
The audience stretched their heads closer to the circle, hoping to hear the whispered conversations. The persistent drumming drowned out their words. People began to wonder out loud, “Will they dance? Will she dance? Will everyone be disqualified? What will happen to the money purse? Why don’t her parents do something?”
Nobody moved. Nothing seemed to happen for minutes. Then the announcer interrupted the questions and the speculation and in a booming voice proclaimed, “And the winner of the money purse for the girls’ competition is…everyone!”
People whooped and whistled. All the little girls clapped and danced circles around one another. The older girls gently led the girl who did not dance back into the open arms of her family. Strangers hugged one another and many cried. My heart opened wide and I felt privileged to witness this heart-centered ritual of community intuition and kindness.
Excerpted from Awaken Your All Knowing Heart by Rosalie Deer Heart