UNITED STATES NEWS

Largest powwow draws Indigenous dancers to New Mexico

Apr 28, 2023, 4:00 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Tens of thousands of people are gathering in New Mexico for what organizers bill as the largest powwow in North America.

The annual Gathering of Nations kicked off Friday with a colorful procession of Native American and Indigenous dancers from around the world moving to the beat of traditional drums as they fill an arena at the New Mexico state fairgrounds.

“We’re ready to rock the house here,” the announcer proclaimed, after introducing drum groups, including from Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

During the event, dancers slowly spiral their way, one by one, toward the center of the venue, making for a spectacular display.

This marks the 40th year for the gathering, which has grown from humble beginnings in 1983 into a massive celebration with Indigenous people showcasing their cultures through dancing and singing competitions.

Spectators get a chance to see the competitors’ feathered bustles, buckskin dresses, fancy shawls, and beaded head and hair pieces. Many of the dancers’ elaborate outfits are detailed with hand-stitched designs.

Most dancers at the Gathering of Nations compete for prize money.

More than two dozen contestants from the U.S. and Canada also are vying for the title of Miss Indian World. The winner will be crowned on the final night of the powwow and will spend the next year serving as a cultural ambassador as she travels to events and other powwows.

Several hundred Native American tribes in the United States and First Nations in Canada are represented at the gathering, which has become Albuquerque’s second-largest annual festival and brings in more than $20 million for the local economy each year.

Organizers held virtual gatherings in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19 restrictions. This is the second in-person gathering since public health regulations were relaxed.

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Largest powwow draws Indigenous dancers to New Mexico