Meet Miss He Sapa Win: The Black Hills Powwow Princess
I’ve lived in Rapid City for most of my life, but until this year I had never attended the Black Hills Powwow. Truth is, I never realized it was a community event and I had no idea what actually happened at a powwow. Now that I’ve experienced it, I’m disappointed it took me so long.
With it being my first time attending, I wanted to get an insider’s perspective on the event so I was introduced to Genevieve Iron Lightning. Genevieve held the title of the 2017-2018 Miss He Sapa Win, or the Black Hills Powwow Princess. She explained what a great honor it was to hold this title and serve as a role model to Native youth. Genevieve spent the last year attending local and nationwide powwows with her grandma, Dale Iron Lightning, to represent the Black Hills Powwow.
(left: Genevieve Iron Lightning, right: Uriah Little Hoop)
Genevieve started dancing when she was three years old and still dances the Woman’s Traditional Dance, which is the oldest form of dance for women. While this style involves more subtle movements than other forms it’s a very graceful and dignified dance to watch. Learning the history and witnessing all the different dance styles is captivating. Each style showcases different regalia worn by the dancer and each outfit is vibrant with color and wrapped with details, every piece having a meaning or purpose.
Genevieve lives with her grandma in Elk Butte, SD and together they traveled out to attend the Black Hills Powwow, which they have been doing for the last 12 years. In the Lakota language the Black Hills are called Paha Sapa and are considered the center of the world. When I asked what the Black Hills Powwow meant to her, Genevieve spoke about how much it means to gather in the Black Hills and remember how sacred the area is to many tribes.
The Black Hills Powwow is three days chock-full of events like a parade, a fine arts show, singing, dancing, drumming and so much more! I attended the parade in Downtown Rapid City on Saturday morning to watch the floats (and of course get some candy) and the powwow for what was called Saturday Night Live, where the stadium floor was constantly flooded with dancers and twirling colors. Whether you know a lot about the culture or very little, the Black Hills Powwow creates a feeling of community and is a great way to learn and witness the beauty of Native American culture.