The 122nd Arlee Powwow Celebration was a healthy return to normalcy after unhealthy hiatus

Char-Koosta News 

ARLEE — The Arlee Celebration Committee had a change in membership prior to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic national shutdown that, by extension, put the annual Arlee Celebration on hold for two years. Consequently, this year’s — the 122nd — powwow was somewhat of a rookie endeavor for the Celebration Committee and a bit of hard-earned breaths of fresh air that invigorated their spirits as well as all that participated and attended. It was in the air. That’s what powwow celebrations do, they invigorate the souls of the individuals and add to the spirit of the people. For Indian people it’s another journey along the road to survival of Indigenous culture and its traditions.

Last July 4th there was a one-day Memorial gathering held to remember and let go of all who had passed on, many due to COVID-19, since 2020. Normally, as it was done once again this year, the gone-on loved ones are memorialized the evening prior to the opening of the celebration. Since that was not done in 2020, there was a hard pull to have one last year, said Ron Matt, Head of the Celebration Committee. 

“There were just too many people who passed away that we had to do something last year,” Matt said. “We wanted the memorial so people could honor their loved ones. I never saw so many people as happy as they were last year. A lot of relatives and family friends of people had died and they had to get some closure. We accomplished that.”

The Memorial provides the closure so people could now celebrate the lives of those who have gone-on and celebrate with a renewed spirit of the present with hopes for the future.

“Earlier this year we told the Tribal Council that we wanted to have a powwow this year, that it would be great to have one,” Matt said. The Tribal Council agreed and gave the green light.

However, the green light was accompanied by a yellow light that illuminated all the maintenance and needed repairs that had not been done since the 2019 powwow celebration. The bleacher seating in the dancing and stick-game arbors had to have extensive repairs, one of the public bathrooms had to be closed and the food concession building had to have remedial repairs. 

“We did some of the small things we could do but there are larger things that have to be fixed.,” Matt said, “But we got the things fixed that we could. The people who helped here did a really good job getting this place ready to go.”

He thanked the Tribal Council for the $40,000 given to the Arlee and Elmo celebrations this year as well as all the folks who helped get the powwow grounds ready for the powwow.

“There are a lot of happy people here; they are all telling me what a great powwow we are having,” Matt said. “It’s them, the people who show up, the dancers, the drummers, the concessionaires, spectators that make this great.”

Matt said the hardest thing he had to do was to ask the Tribal Council that the committee had to shut down the previous two powwow celebrations due to health concerns. However, that rearview thought juxtaposed against the present view adds to the feeling of success and happiness for Matt. Prior to the beginning of the July 4th Powwow Celebration Matt was on the grounds for 21 consecutive days working with others to get it spiffed up and ready host the celebration. He said it will be a bit of time before he begins thinking about next year’s celebration.

“I’m so happy that the powwow is happening,” Matt said, “but I am still a little nervous, will be till the last drum beat.”

Relax Ron and Committee members. From the first drum beat to the last there was a real big dose of traditional celebratory medicine dispensed once again at the Arlee Powwow Celebration — as usual.

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