SIOUX FALLS – The pow wow at the Jameson Annex in the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls returned to the gymnasium on Saturday, Oct. 17 after being banned by prison officials in recent years.
Scheduled Oct. 15-17, the Cultural Conference and Pow wow was a successful event this past weekend. There were several speakers and presenters including world-champion hoop dancer and Oglala Sioux Tribal Liaison, Dallas Chief Eagle.
On Thur. Oct. 15, the Cultural Conference began with discussions and information provided by Executive Director of Iron House Council (IHC), Jennifer Hudson.
The Iron House Council’s One Heart One Mind Interpretive Center is based near Charles Town, W.Va. IHC is a Native American advocacy and support group.
“Our vision is to see the next generations learn the history, culture and traditions of the Cannupa in order to walk the Red Road,” according to their website http://www.ohomic.org.
Iron House is working diligently in the East Coast region with dozens of correctional facilities and hundreds of prisoners providing documentary screenings, classes and lectures, community support for those struggling with addiction recovery, and incarcerated individuals who want Native American spiritual practices in their lives.
Jennifer Hudson of IHC told inmates, “You (S.D. inmates) are setting a precedent for others around the country who want what you have here in Sioux Falls. So many other prisons do not allow inipi ceremonies (sweat lodge), or sage or tobacco for prayer.”
“You are the leaders for so many others,” Hudson told the Native American inmates in the Jameson Annex at the S.D. State Prison.
Opening up the Cultural Conference on Friday was a water ceremony conducted by Lisa Bellinger who did prayer and spoke to prisoners about the connection “between women, water and life. Water is life.” Inmates drank from the blessed water Bellinger passed around the circle.
Native Sun News was invited to speak and updated inmates regarding the race relations issues in Rapid City, justice reform through the MacArthur Grant’s Safety and Justice Committee formed through the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office and news from Indian Country.
The LDN Spiritual Group spokesman Robert Horse then introduced Dallas Chief Eagle who discussed with inmates the need to be led by the spiritual mind in life. “Let go of all the drama in here. All the drama from your family outside and be led by the spiritual mind. Tune into that channel to guide you,” said Chief Eagle.
On the day of the pow wow, inmates and visitors were able to have a pipe ceremony in morning. The Iron House staff and volunteers Kat Bartlett, Anna Goist, and Kevin McGee assisted with the ceremony and inmates were able to use tobacco during prayer.
Pow wow Eyapaha (announcer), George Blue Bird told the pow wow attendees how much he enjoyed it. “When I get out of here, I’m gonna move to Georgia, somewhere, and work on a tobacco farm so I can smoke all day, every day.” Everyone laughed when he made the gesture of being surrounded by tobacco leaves.
During the pow wow, Dallas Chief Eagle put on a hoop dancing performance which amazed everyone in the gymnasium. Chief Eagle is a tribal liaison for the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
He encouraged inmates and outside guests to participate and create the various animal spirits with hoops. Inmates could be seen smiling and laughing as they were floating around the gym floor like eagles. This symbol of freedom was touching as one visitor could be seen crying from joy.
Chief Eagle’s performance ended with him sitting in a sweat lodge made from his sacred hoops.