Huge summer powwow planned at fairgrounds

March 24, 2019

Bruce Grant of Havre said when he was 15 years old, he was given a vision during a tribal Sun Dance of exactly what Herd Bull, or how he is known to the powwow circle, would look, what he would stand for, and what he would accomplish.

Grant said the Sun Dance brought him two main clarities. First, that he would eventually lead a powwow that would focus on the celebration of life and would bring healing to native and non-native communities. Second, he was given vivid details of what his regalia for Herd Bull would look like.

Now, about four decades later, his vision will become a reality during a five-day festival scheduled to unfold at the Flathead County Fairgrounds June 5-9. The event will honor missing and murdered indigenous women and children.

“This is a ceremony about healing that will not only positively affect your people, but will affect the rest of the world,” Grant said. “Native or non-native, we all belong to different tribes when you think about it, but this festival is for coming together to honor our dance and our people as one.”

The festival, which is open to the public, will include multiple traditional and modern dances, relay races, traditional stick games, bull-riding and, of course, a powwow.

Powwows are held throughout the United States and are opportunities for Native Americans from different tribes to gather together to honor their culture with singing and dancing. They begin with a grand entry in which all of the dancers follow a leader of the native community. For the festival in Flathead County, Grant, 55, will lead as the Herd Bull.

“The vision showed me this outfit and how to build it and what was to happen with it and how I was supposed to wear it and this is how I became the Herd Bull,” Grant said. “When I bring it into the dance circle there are elders who called me by that name. There is no head piece like mine, no outfit like mine.”

Grant said his regalia for Herd Bull took nearly 30 years to make and is adorned with buffalo from head to toe and other unique details.

He said he contributes the honor of being the leader in the pow wow to his father, who is from Fort Belknap. Grant and his family spent much of their family time together in the Flathead Valley.

“When I come out as the Herd Bull with others following behind me, it’s going to be for him,” Grant said about hid father.

Grant’s vision is coming to fruition with a lot of help from Rod Burnstick, a well-known powwow coordinator in the U.S. and Canada.

“We want everyone in this valley to come and join in the celebration because it’s your home, so this event will be yours to share in as well,” Burnstick said. “This is how we come together and celebrate one another’s histories and share in each other’s cultures.”

Burnstick said he was inspired by the Flathead Valley when he arrived and by Grant’s longtime vision for the powwow.

“You have to feel that energy and discover the spirit of a place,” Burnstick said. “For Grant that stems from his family’s roots here. His ancestry is here in the Flathead, so there is a sense of historical context.”

Burnstick said he and Grant hope the powwow will lay the foundation for future celebrations in the area, saying every powwow “has its own footprint and that’s what I think will blossom from this.”

According to Grant, coordinators are hoping for about 50,000 native and non-native people to attend the event over the course of the event, which he said would make the powwow competitive to some of the larger ones in the U.S., such as the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The event is being privately funded by various tribes. Grant said individuals and groups who wish to sponsor events will have the honor of naming champion of the powwow - a decision considered a great privilege by the native community. He said sponsors will also receive a star quilt, which is a symbol of honor and generosity.

Ticket prices for the festival and entry fees for the events will be announced soon. Details of the weekend and prizes for events will be released on a website in a few weeks that will be linked to the Flathead County Fairgrounds website.

Reporter Kianna Gardner may be reached at 758-4439 or kgardner@dailyinterlake.com.