Powwow Marks Construction of U.S. Indian Museum

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This day, however, tourists approached respectfully, asking if they could take his picture as he stood, arms folded, in the full regalia of a warrior from his Oglala Lakota tribe.

The black-fringed leggings and shirt with the headdress of porcupine quills and deer fur, the necklaces of a red tail hawk claw and bone whistle transformed him into a "real" Indian—the man his family called Wakinyanmaza (Iron Lightning).

Legend of the Grass Dance

Several stories are attached to the grass dance.

"My family said the Creator gave a lame boy a song as he was sitting watching the grasses swaying on the plains," Garneaux said. "The boy told the elders about his song and his desire to dance and then he started making his outfit. As he worked, he sang. When the time for the dance came, the boy went to the circle to dance and he fell and stumbled, but as the song went on, he became stronger and by the end, he was healed."

The more traditional explanation of the dance is that it was a service performed by young strong men who stomped down the shoulder-high buffalo grasses so families could erect their teepees.

John and Nancy Butterfield and their three children came from suburban Northern Virginia to join the 1,200 spectators jammed into the powwow tent.

"We know so precious little about our Native Americans," said John Butterfield, who teaches literature at Fairfax County High School. "When I was growing up, all I knew was cowboys and Indians. It's changing a little in the school curriculum now, but we have a long way to go in recovering this history," he said. "We've all lost a lot—more than we'll ever know."

Though Rachel Duran, 24, grew up with a passing sense of her ancestral heritage with the Navaho Tequa tribe of Colorado and New Mexico, her visit to the powwow was the first time she had ever attended such a festival.

"I wasn't raised with a lot of awareness. As I get older, I find that I am more curious. Someday I will definitely learn more about my background and heritage," said Duran, a graduate student at George Washington University majoring in international commerce.

Ultimately, all of us may learn more because of this museum, said Horse Capture.

"In the long run this is a blessing for all our children when the Native Americans will no longer be viewed as strangers in their own land."

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