My friends and I decided to let the outside world into spring break.
Haskell Indian Nations University students Ashley Youngbird, Prairie Band Potawatomi; Jessica Youngbird, Prairie Band Potawatomi; Tracy Kennedy, Northern Paiute; and me, Acoma Pueblo, planned a trip to the Denver March Powwow in Denver, a trip through the Southwest that eventually wound through Phoenix and back to Kansas.
Our spring break started with everyone meeting at the Youngbird home in Topeka, which was easier said than done.
As Ashley and I left Lawrence, a storm was brewing and snow was falling. Word was that Interstate 70 was closed, and we were worried we wouldn't be able to make it in time for the grand entry of the powwow.
About 15 minutes into the drive, Ashley's car overheated, and we had to pull over. Minutes later, a police officer came by and called a tow truck.
We didn't get into Topeka until about 11:30 p.m., but we weren't going to be deterred. The van, appropriately named Van Damme and with a War Pony plate, was ready and we left Topeka by 12:30 a.m.
We arrived in Denver about 8 a.m. The Denver March Powwow claims to be the official start of the powwow season. Dancers come from all over the United States to compete.
A powwow is a big get-together of American Indians some who dance, some who sing and others who just hang out to enjoy the sights and sounds.
Powwows are also a way for many American Indians to meet other American Indians. The Denver March is about the same time as many young people's spring breaks, enabling many to go.
Entering the Denver Coliseum is exciting because all the dancers are getting ready for the grand entry. Before the powwow, the royalty is introduced including Felicia Gallegos, a Haskell student and the 2000 Denver March Princess and greeted.
One of the best parts about the powwow is the honoring of veterans. This powwow seems to have many honor guards, with veterans from every military branch.
Denver has its own beginning grand entry song, and as it begins, so begins the long entrance. It takes a good 20 minutes to get on the arena floor. Altogether it takes 45 minutes to an hour to finish the grand entry, and what the audience sees is a wonderful array of colorful dancers.
Another good thing about Denver is there is no drum limit. One year there were 70 drums and they got every drum to sing. This year the total was 60.
Each day, specials are held with each special having its own contest. Specials honor a person for something they have accomplished or acknowledge a dancer who wants to thank the committee for honoring them.
This year, there were some spectacular dance specials, with the winner of the young man's grass dance competition receiving a yearling horse.
Another special was for Kansas University student Shelley Bointy. Shelley's family held a women's fancy shawl dance contest in honor of her upcoming graduation. Shelley is a great dancer and her husband, Joe, was arena director for the powwow.
Another thing about Denver is that it has many vendors selling American Indian jewelry, beadwork, artwork and supplies. That may be good for the art enthusiast with a lot of money but for a student with not that much to spend it wreaks havoc on your budget.
By Sunday, our gang of girls was ready to head south. So we headed down the interstate with the powwow music still in our ears.
Six hours later we arrived on my reservation, Acoma Pueblo, where we made a brief stop at the Skycity casino. It was almost 3 a.m. We arrived at my uncle's, who only lives about a mile from the casino, to rest up a little.
My home has no heat and we kinda froze in the early morning hours. I decided it would be nice to take the girls for a little hike behind the house and up a small hill. The scenery was great. This is what I wanted them to see. The desert is beautiful, and it's nice to get away from the green for a little bit.
After saying goodbye to my uncle, we headed to the Laguna Pueblo reservation, where they were holding their annual Laguna feast. A feast is a celebration with singers and dancers almost like a powwow but with different dances and songs. Vendors again lined the pueblo selling their wares and putting a pinch on our wallets.
I visited with my relatives, and it was hard for my friends not to take pictures of their pueblo homes. On certain days, pictures are not suppose to be taken. It's just that way, is the only reason I can give.
The day was getting away from us and it was getting warm, so we decided to forge ahead to Phoenix. It was hard for me to leave home, but I knew I would be back.
The trip to Phoenix was special because I would be seeing my sister, Earleen Warrior. Some of the early morning patrons of McDonald's on 23rd Street may remember her and her husband, Stan. All three of us worked there.
The drive to Phoenix was awesome because it goes through the desert, into the woods of Flagstaff and descends from the mountains into Phoenix. We arrived at my sister's about 8 p.m., and it was very warm.
The next day was so sunny and Tracy couldn't quit taking pictures of the palm trees. I guess it's something I take for granted.
We decided to go to Lake Pleasant because we wanted to get a little sun. The next day we decided to go back to the lake. It was so nice, how could we not?
I also took Ashley, Jessie and Tracy to one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Phoenix. We ended up at a mall, spending more money. Our funds were depleting and we realized our trip to Indio, Calif., for another powwow was not going to happen.
You would have thought we would have had one fight on the trip, but we kept each other laughing.
For example: Tracy went to her first Arby's: "No onions on the beef sandwich, please"; Ashley crashed onto the floor of the van when Jessie stopped too quick; Jessie couldn't tell the difference between a red and black bag "Give me my red bag!" And me, well, I almost hit a pigeon in Phoenix. I was so close I saw its white underbelly.
We arrived back in Lawrence about 2 p.m. Friday a little dirty, a little tired, but glad we had a fun spring break.
Rhonda LeValdo is a student at Haskell Indian Nations University.