Al Gore Wins Nobel Peace Prize - Walking Wolf Uses Powwows To Help 1st Nations Culture Remain Vibrant
Al Gore Wins Nobel Peace Prize
I am deeply honored to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. This award is even more meaningful because I have the honor of sharing it with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change--the world's pre-eminent scientific body devoted to improving our understanding of the climate crisis--a group whose members have worked tirelessly and selflessly for many years. We face a true planetary emergency.
The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level.
My wife, Tipper, and I will donate 100 percent of the proceeds of the award to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan non-profit organization that is devoted to changing public opinion in the U.S. and around the world about the urgency of solving the climate crisis.
Carrying On Traditions
Submitted by Ann VanWert
By Pamela Cowan, Leader-Post (Regina)
Powwow dancer "Walking Wolf" is passionate about taking steps to ensure that First Nations culture not only survives but thrives in Saskatchewan and around the world.
"A lot of younger generations are feeling lost," said Kevin Haywahe, an eight-time world champion dancer from the Carry the Kettle Nakota Nation. "The old ones say that the round dance and powwow are the ones to keep our younger generation focused on being First Nation.
"But today's kids don't hear stories about their past heritage because many of their parents never had the stories handed down to them, said Haywahe, whose Indian name, "Sunktoja/mani", means Walking Wolf.
"I was fortunate enough to be raised like that, so I want to share these with other people," he said. "I talk to them about powwow and what it can do for their lives. Powwows are much more than competitive dance," said the 40-year-old.
"It allows them to research their own people and I tell them, 'Don't be afraid to ask questions,' " Haywahe said. He impresses upon youths that they bring a spirit of respect to powwows.
"It turns into a healing circle with all the drums in a circle and all the dancers in there and the eagle staffs and the elders are talking and praying," Haywahe said. "It heals a lot of negativity in their lives -- it cleanses them. When they get to the powwow, I tell them to offer tobacco to Mother Earth if they are going to dance there for those people."
As he travels on the powwow trail throughout North America, he seeks out elders in each community."I approach them before I enter their arena to find out their traditions so I have more respect for them and hear stories from their people," Haywahe said. Haywahe performs the traditional contemporary (a form of the northern fancy dance style), old style and the chicken dance.
"Before the fancy dance was adopted from the south, they danced here with one bustle, but the moves are fancier and the footwork is intricate -- this contemporary dance branched off that," he said. "Many people try to say that the contemporary dance is a new dance but I started dancing this style in the 1980s so I kind of opened the doors to the powwow trail in that style."
Contemporary dance can tell the story of tracking an enemy or it can imitate a battle or animals, Haywahe said. He explains the Assiniboine people did old-style buffalo or horse dances, which he describes as more "humble."
Haywahe treasures humility. He could have won a ninth world powwow championship but he stepped aside at a Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation powwow in Connecticut in 1996 after winning several competitions.
"I didn't want to be greedy," said Haywahe, who attributes his success to his people."By their encouragement and the spirit of them, the drummers and the singers and what our people have endured in the past -- I portray all of that while I'm dancing," he said.
As soon as he began walking, he started performing the grass dance. Besides learning the steps at an early age, many family members shared the oral history of their people with him.
"All of my family used to dance at one time until they got into careers and schooling, so I was left dancing," Haywahe said. "My relatives encouraged me and I kept on with it. There used to be a lot of young guys my age who danced but now there's just a couple of us left." He encourages his family to cultivate their culture.
"Now some (family members) want to get back into it as they see how I've travelled and the knowledge that I've learned and my nieces and nephews are singing and dancing and learning the culture," he said.His 10-year-old daughter Kaley is a shawl dancer and his 16-year-old son Kelsey performs the grass dance.
His 20-year-old daughter Nikki danced as a young girl. Now she attends and supports her dad at powwows. And Haywahe carries on the storytelling tradition with her son, his one-year-old grandson Chauncy." I have plans for him already," Haywahe said.
Those plans include educating him about how the powwow tradition originated in the southern states in the early 1600s."The Omaha people in Nebraska got it from further south in the Oklahoma area," Haywahe said. "When they travelled north, from tribe to tribe, we got it from the Crow people when we traded many things, like horses, teepees and gifts -- the feather belt they called it."
Not only did residential schools strip students of their language and ceremonies, but they lost their tribal oral history. An elder told Haywahe that he has a responsibility to share his knowledge."I am a tool to the older ones to be used because I love teaching these ways," Haywahe said.
He spends a lot of time educating youths about their ancient culture. "Those little boys need a mentor," Haywahe said. "They want to dance hard with me. When I grew up I had mentors on the powwow trail -- older men that danced, such as my late grandfathers and uncles. I met up with Gordon Tootoosis and Frank McKay on the powwow trail.
"My daughter brings her friends to me and I tell them about the dances and what's going on in the arena. I have a passion for the past. I know many stories about our people." About 10 years ago, he started a cultural camp.
"If I win a competition, I save some of that money to put this on for other groups," he said. "I just did it privately and then a lady from the university came out and she brought some students. She was fascinated with it and said I should get bigger with it, but I was busy travelling so as time went on my older brother Tim Haywahe and sister Brenda took it over."
On the powwow circuit from April to mid-October, this year's travels have taken Haywahe across Canada as well as to Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and Connecticut.
"Powwows used to be seasonal but now they go all year round," Haywahe said. "Everywhere in North America more people are getting into the culture, powwow style. I was even honoured to go down to California and talk about powwow there. One of my relatives lives down there and he started a powwow there about 12 years ago. He invited some of us down from the north to talk to his governor, Gray Davis it was at the time, about what powwow can do for their people.
"We danced the governor into the arena and we gave him some gifts and he supported it so now we have powwows in California, too. I went up north in Manitoba in the Hudson Bay area and talked about powwow and they have powwows there too now so they call me a powwow facilitator."
Haywahe designs his exquisite regalia and his adopted sister, Maryanne Higheagle from Pipestone, Man., does the intricate beadwork."I design it to reflect who I am along with my spiritual being," Haywahe said. His regalia incorporates feathers from the eagle, which is revered because it flies highest in the sky, closest to the Creator.
"All the things that we use are what the animal portrays in his life," Haywahe said. "The weasel represents the cunning so we ask for that in our life." Haywahe's brother Tim gave him his first coyote hide headdress.
"When we were pushed out of the Cypress Hills area, the coyotes were the ones that led the people, they say. It sang a song and talked to the elders," he said.
The buffalo dance staff is reminiscent of the days when Haywahe's people used all the buffalo had to offer, including the bones and hide. To this day, Haywahe wears a breast plate that was originally made of buffalo bones."
Everyone was to dress in our best so if you were killed in battle you would be presentable to the Creator," he said. Members of other tribes have given him items to carry when he dances, such as a medicine bag.
"It was used by this man who was involved in ceremonies. He got old and was ailing and so he passed it on to me with a little prayer so I carry it for him," Haywahe said.
The medicine wheel that he carries is made of Second World War rifle shells, which were given to him by friends. "The cartridges belong to the veterans whom we should not forget because they fought for freedom for these ways," Haywahe said.
That freedom includes dancing overseas. Haywahe was snapped up by scouts for the American Indian Dance Theatre, which was founded by Barbara Schwei in 1987 in New York. "They must have watched me for a while at a couple of powwows and then they approached me at the United Tribes Powwow in Bismarck in the fall of 1988 and they asked me to join them," he said."There were about 20 dancers including a couple of Canadians and I joined them in Seattle, Washington.
"Members of the theatre group performed in almost every American state and 12 countries overseas. During an eight-week stop in Paris, they performed 60 shows. "There was advertising all over -- on buses and posters -- we were like rock stars there. So many people stopped us for autographs and they wouldn't charge us to eat. There was about 15,000 people sleeping there. They were camped out to get tickets," he said. One grandmother in her 80s travelled from Spain to see the performance.
"We invited people like that backstage and they cried," Haywahe said. "In Canada and the States, after we do our shows we do a Q and A and only about 100 people stay. But over there not one person left. They'd want a little piece of leather off our outfit. They'd cherish it and frame it."
He travelled with the group for 16 years and plans to help out with its 20th-anniversary tour this year."Then I came home because I realized that our own people here needed something to showcase our culture here," he said.
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