The Tsuut’ina Nation held its annual Rodeo and Pow Wow near Bragg Creek on the weekend of July 23 -25, 2010

It is an extravagant expression of culture and sport. The rodeo appears to be a full-on event. My favourite part of this huge celebration is the kids playing and chasing each other around the teepees (or tipis – take your pick) erected on the grounds outside the huge wooden tipi where the dancing takes place. The purpose of the event is to bring together nations from across the province and even across the continent. This celebration provides an opportunity for the kids to find each other and frolic. The dancing, drumming and singing are really the main attractions.

One of the announcers dedicated a memory to his sister to whom he attributed the statement that “on Saturday night the magic happens, the magic of the singing and drumming”. Hopefully I caught some of the magic in this video.

Competitive entertainment

It is odd to think of competitive culture, but the dancing and drumming are judged. It’s also hard to think of a huge annual celebration without liquor, but the event is dry – no booze. Except for the Rodeo it is also free and all are welcome. Each different age group and style of dance (the jingle dance, chicken dance, fancy dance etc.) is awarded a prize. The costumes, or outfits if you prefer, represent both traditional and modern styles. The traditional materials include, leather, feathers, bone and fur. Modern materials include florescent plastic ribbons, synthetic materials, CDs, glass and metals. The jingle dresses have close to a hundred small cone-shaped “bells” sewn on. As the girls dance, the bells flop around and jingle. You can hear the jingle at the start of this video.

It’s a party

People camp for the weekend; some in tents others in luxury motor homes. On the grounds they have a building where they play a traditional game called the hand game where two teams face each other and pass a wooden piece the size and shape of a roll of dimes. The object is to trick your opponents into losing track of who has the wooden piece; kind of like a slight of hand for teams. They have amusement rides; ferris wheel and spinning cups, etc. They have concessions where you can buy fast foods and cold drinks. There are booths where you can buy crafts and recorded music. Technology is creeping into the Pow Wow as there are video cameras recording everything and broadcasting the action on large video screens. It’s loud! – with robust speakers blasting the drumming both in the main tipi and out. The huge tipi where most of the action takes place is an open sided conical structure about 30 metres tall and maybe 60 metres across. The shingled roof is supported by massive timbers and it is lit with a ring of florescent bulbs.

Thousands of people attend the 3-day celebration. You can show up just about anytime and there will be something happening. The grounds are located opposite the Redwood Meadows golf club on Hwy 22 about 5 km east of Bragg Creek.