"Dance your style!": Towards understanding some of the cultural significances of pow wow references in First Nations' literatures

Denise Suzanne McConney
Dept. of English, The University of Saskatchewan
August, 2006
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References to pow wows, pow wow dancers, and pow wow songs abound in First Nations' literatures. This dissertation proposes attending, observing and listening at pow wows - an aural principal and strategy - in order to learn from First Nations' people what these references may mean. Pow wows are a widespread First Nations' cultural activity, with ceremonial aspects, and one that is open to all. Pow wows therefore provide an ethically appropriate way for literary critics to come to some understandings of these references and settings in First Nations' literatures. It is also possible to learn about traditional values and principles that have significance beyond pow wow. The histories of and the histories in pow wow are both important in this study.

This framework is used to explicate Susan Power's The Grass Dancer , Drew Hayden Taylor's Education is Our Right , Tomson Highway's Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing , Joy Harjo's "Strange Fruit," Beth Cuthand's "Post-Oka Kinda Woman," Louise Halfe's "Ghost Dance," Patricia Monture-Angus' ohkwa:ri ta:re tenhanonniahkwe and Annharte's "Saskatchewan Indians Were Dancing.