Yellow Bird: Indian culture changes in subtle ways
"As an elder, I often turn around to look at the past. The path I've traveled is not always as I expected it would be when I was 16 years old. I say this because it couldn't have been more evident then at the Mother's Day powwow and celebration at White Shield, N.D., last weekend. I felt both sadness and pride at the changes in this cultural event.

I know life rarely stays the same, I told my sister. I know, I said again, looking at her. Everything is evolving, but the evolution of American Indian culture doesn't feel good. She laughed and said, “You're just getting old.” And perhaps that's true.

A good change, I explained to her, can be found in the evolution of the refrigerator or that big hulking Suburban van that our brother, Don, used to be so proud of. The refrigerator went from the ice box - and on the reservation 66 years ago, it was an ice box - to one of those really fancy, right-from-Modern-Homes-magazine models. As for cars, I love their changes; they went from cranking the starter to antilock brakes, stability control and so on.

In contrast, changes in Native culture are more subtle, yet they can hit me hard. When I heard the songs and drumming last weekend, memories of past drum songs echoed in my ears, and I knew the sounds that I now was hearing were different.

The young singers probably don't realize it, because we are now mostly English speakers and listen like English speakers, too. So, I think the words and sounds of the Native singers 60 years ago would sound foreign to the new “Ree Boys” group at the powwow, and they are good drum group . . . for youngsters."

Get the Story:
Dorreen Yellow Bird: Shedding a tear as Indians dance to a different drum (The Grand Forks Herald 5/16)
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