MEDICINE LODGE — Eagle feathers are a rare commodity, so Taylor McLain uses fake ones surround by porcupine hair for the roach that adorns his head.
For now. The 15-year-old from South Haven is on a waiting list to get the real deal. Others at the Medicine Lodge Indian Peace Treaty powwow competition already have real feathers, sometimes from a roach, also called a headdress, passed on by ancestors.
“They’re sacred,” Twaila Wiley said about eagles. Wiley is McLain’s biology teacher and the director of a Native American group at South Haven High School.
So sacred, Wiley said, that if one fell off the competition would stop and a ceremony ensue in order to pick up the feather.
Many of the items the dancers wear are either made by or handed down from family, Rachel Allen explained as she dressed up her 4-year-old daughter, Kambri.
“I hope I do really good,” Kambri said to her mother.
When asked her favorite part about her outfit, Kambri said the bracelets.
“They are shiny and pretty and sparkly,” she said.
Kambri’s father, Terry Tsotigh, has been doing powwows for 50 years. The group traveled from the Oklahoma City area for this one.
“That’s our ancestry and tradition,” he said. “We have to keep going with the future generations.”
Prize money also draws competitors.
While the two were gearing up for the powwow competition at Medicine Lodge City Park, a rodeo was starting a couple blocks away at the Pageant Arena. Events were planned all around town Saturday. The Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty started Friday and concludes on Sunday with the adult powwow competition in an open arena built at City Park.
The powwow competition is Medicine Lodge residents Bob and Cindy Christensen's favorite part. The beat of a drum and the clank of metal as women danced around in jingle dresses could be heard during the competition. But the Christensens look forward mostly to seeing the colorful beads and unique outfits the competitors wear.
“It’s intriguing,” Cindy said.
Joscelyn Nittley, with the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty Association, said the event keeps growing. She said 57 competitors were registered for the powwow competition, which is almost double last year’s event.
She said spectators are growing, too.
Eugene and Connie Wall traveled from Savannah, Missouri, for the event. Although, a misinformed family member told them it was a pageant year, which occurs every three years.
The pageant year includes more events and a full reenactment with the signing of the 1867 Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty.
The treaty was meant to establish peace between the Native Americans and the European settlers. It was made between the Peace Commission of the U.S. Government and five tribes: Kiowa, Comanche, Kiowa-Apache, Arapaho and the Cheyenne.
The Walls nearly took off for home with hopes to return for the pageant year in 2018, but someone convinced them the powwow competition was worth the stay.
“It’s worth seeing,” Eugene said. “I can’t get over the costumes."