Virtues on the Powwow Trail: Honor
- Lindell Haywehe | May 23, 2023
Honor. Among indigenous people, honor is a virtue that is practiced through humility, reverence and being a good relative. The dictionary defines honor as a virtue of the highest esteem or a standard code of conduct. To honor a relative, in the powwow circle, is a sign of respect for the life of the person being honored. In the repertoire of the drums, there are honor songs. Songs are composed for relatives in general, as well as specifically for an individual. This year, three families were a part of the celebration and hosted a dance special for their loved ones. Honor is the central inspiration for what each of the families did for their family member.
This year, the family of Patience Benjoe honored her by hosting a jingle dress special. In a conversation with her father, Thomas Benjoe, he spoke about what honoring our relatives while they are still here means to him. He learned what protocols to use and the importance of giving back to the community and to the powwow circle. His family has been quite involved in the powwow circle, and his children have danced since they could walk. He stated that his family has honored his daughter, Patience, when she was in Tiny Tots, and Juniors, in Teens and when she was the Princess for the Standing Buffalo First Nation. Acknowledging the milestones of his children ensures they understand and carry forth the values of humility and giving back when you have been fortunate.
The family of Kaylin “Punky” Delorme chose the First Nations University Spring Celebration to honor their daughter to honor their daughter’s transition into the teen girls fancy dance category. Kaylin had started her powwow journey at the spring celebration when she was initiated into the powwow circle as a tiny tot. An initiation is an honoring of the new dancer into the powwow circle by dancing them in accompanied by a role model whose style they admire; in the category they have chosen. Memory Delorme-Antoine, Kaylin’s mother, says that originally, her special was going to be in 2020, but COVID caused the powwow to be cancelled and it was important to them to honor the commitment they made.
A lifetime of participating in the powwow circle and perseverance of spirit and will was the inspiration for the family of champion grassdancer, Byron Goodwill. Wawokapishni, Hard to Shoot Down, according to his wife Nellie, is a son, husband, father, uncle and grandfather whose perseverance, strength and hope that he inspired in others during his battle with cancer is the source of motivation for his family to honor his life. “Byron means everything to us, there isn’t anything we would not do for him…He has so much strength, willpower and courage. He is so inspiring and makes all our problems trivial as he fights for his life,” states his wife. She adds that they honored him because he is a figure of inspiration to all. To have grassdancers from across Turtle Island participating in the special was an honor for the family to host and demonstrate the love and support they have for Byron.
Honoring the living spirit of your relatives also provides a sense of pride in culture. Nellie Goodwill, stated it best: “The powwow circle means celebrating culture…making connections to other tribes, creating new families through adoption, creating new bonds, making lasting memories. Powwow is life.”