HELENA — Last year as COVID-19 spread, powwows and traditional gatherings across the U.S. and Canada were canceled. That left drummers, dancers, and singers no place to come together and share their talents and culture. And artists who rely on powwows to make a living lost an important marketplace for traditional art, jewelry, and other crafts.
As the cancellations began to happen, it left many wondering what to do next. It was through the frustration of not being able to meet and connect that pages such as Social Distance Powwow were created on Facebook. The page became a way for voices to be heard and people to connect.
One of the page admins is Dan Simonds of Bozeman. “We get messages all the time, from other business that wouldn’t have been able to survive if it were not for our page, so it's kept a lot of folks afloat, during this time,” he said.
“There is a thing on there called Our Story and...it been great to have a platform where our voices and our prospects can be told through ourselves,” says Simonds
Native Americans from all over began to share their stories and talents on the Facebook page. That includes 13-year-old Vincent Short who is a member of the Gros Ventre tribe in Fort Belknap. He was looking for an outlet to connect to meet other people and share his talent.
“In our culture, we need powwows. In life we need these ceremonies, we need the drum, we need the dances, and when this COVID hit. Powwows stopped and everything got canceled,” Short said.
Short also adds that he has been told he is inspiring others to explore and learn about their own culture.
“Children, like, who are 8-years-old and they look up to me. They tell me like, oh yeah, you made me start singing now and then like there so many kids now, who sing now. And, that makes me feel good because they always text me and say, 'you are the one who made me start singing thank you for sharing your videos.”
Simonds adds, “It always hit me close to home, is the youth, and the youth especially bringing joy during these times, you know.”
From March 24, 2020: