Cody Powwow!

CD-PW 08

The High School is across the street from Buffalo Bill Center of the West

“I will fight no more, forever.” And with that declaration from Chief Joseph, the Indian Wars in the Northwest came to an end. Don’t get me wrong, that was in 1877 and there have been plenty of skirmishes since then; most recently on Indian Territory in South Dakota (’16 @ Pine Ridge). And who can forget Wounded Knee. Despite their differences, natives and the “white men” get along amazingly good. And so it is as we take a trip to Cody… and the annual POWWOW.

 Snow and fog in Sylvan Pass. Clearer as we get to the flatlands of Cody.

About my job; one of the things we do in YCERP (recreation program for employees of Yellowstone) is provide activities for workers on their day off. The Cody Powwow is one of those trips. Yes, I was getting paid to enjoy the following.

After doing the preliminaries of clocking in, doing a vehicle maintenance safety check, gassing up, and checking my list of passengers, we are ready to go! Did I mention that my wife can accompany me on these trips? So Deb and I and 3 employees disembark at 9 am for the two and a half hour ride through Sylvan Pass to Cody, Wyoming. We are greeted with other YCERP workers and employees at the event (each village takes their own van).

This is an outside event and the weather was not cooperating with us. It was 40 with a drenching rain before we left. To make matters worse, as we traveled up through the Pass, it was mixing with snow (and clearly, it had snowed enough to cover the ground!). Do I need to remind you that this is the middle of June! Anyways, at 8500 feet, the weather is often inhospitable and different than at the 5000 foot level of Cody. And sure enough, just as we drive into Cody, the rain stops, clouds part and the sun makes a gallant entry! (Our ride back was better and that is where the pictures come from-see above.)

Tunnels leading to buffalo Bill Dam

CD-PW chris deb01A pair of Mainers in the West (Buffalo bill Dam Rainbow)

At 11:30, we arrive at Buffalo Bill Center of the West (BBCW); A beautiful modern facility that houses 5 museums, video room, eatery, lecture halls and outside entertainment area. And unlike a lot of places like this; here, there is adequate free parking.

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At noon in the amphitheater, the opening ceremonies were spectacular! Marching in to Indian music, they were led by an Indian Chief, followed by a color guard carrying the American Flag and a POW flag. The Indian council of the BBCW trailed them. I might note that the Indian Chief and color guard bearers are all American Veterans. The various tribes and their decorative outfits followed the council. Once inside there was a prayer (giving in Crow), a salute to the American country (and how we are all Americans). The whole thing was just beautiful!

BB Dam – Wasn’t sure which picture I liked better …so I put both.

CD-PW tetonsSylvan Pass, looking southwest towards the Tetons

The Cody Powwow is a once-a-year affair held at the center on its outside grounds and is a 2 day event. Indians representing all of the Northwest tribes are there. In the center amphitheater, there are dances and competition by various groups of Native Americans. This all took place after the opening ceremonies. What a display of talent, artistry, and history! This is the most exciting (and informative) part of the show.

Opening ceremonies of the Cody Powwow

Natives have set up vendor shops around the outside of the arena. Here, they sell homemade jewelry, dream catchers, clothing, and other knick-knacks indigenous of Native Americans. A Pequot selling jeweler not from around here manned one interesting tent. He was from a Connecticut tribe selling stuff made from purple quahog shells (unique to New England). Why was he here? Like a lot of us, our spouse plays a role in our career…and he married a Crow from Montana. Being unique, he was quite busy!

This was a competition between tribes as they displayed their outfits and talents.

At 3, we had to head back to the mountains. I could only imagine what other Native American activities were going to go on later (open until 9 PM) and on Sunday. As we drive back, my thoughts go back to the 1870’s when Chief Joseph ended the hostilities. And I feel gracious to the peoples who worked hard to live in peace and harmony. Good, bad or indifference, history is history.

* To learn more about the struggles of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians, google it or visit your local library. A good movie on last battle between Union soldiers (lead by General Howard) that cut through Yellowstone National Park chasing Chief Joseph is “I Will Fight No More Forever”.

Campa Edu


STAY TUNED! More “tales from the campah”!


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