Check out the history and colors at the Twin Buttes Celebration and Powwow

For many families, the summer is a time to follow the “powwow circuit.” Much like the “rodeo circuit,” families compete for earnings from each powwow in order to go to the next powwow. Even children get involved in the contests dancing in the “tiny tots” category. It’s a time of family bonding, and for passing on cultural heritage.

You’re invited to join your neighbor’s celebration – and be welcomed, entertained and well-fed. It’s a quiet little celebration, with only a few hundred of the closest friends and families – and you. The Twin Buttes Powwow in June is not as well-known as the annual UTETC powwow in September at Bismarck, of the Little Shell Powwow in August at New Town. But no one tops the hospitality and welcome visitors are shown at Twin Buttes. This year, the annual Twin Buttes Celebration is June 16-18.

By Mike Kopp

For the Herald

Visitors are welcome — The intricate bead work of the dancer’s costumes, the movements that swirl the colors into a spectrum of light are some of the most obvious attractions at any powwow. The Twin Buttes powwow adds to that their legendary open arms of hospitality.

“We welcome everyone. We love to go the extra mile for our guests,” said Jessica Howling Wolf, the president of the Twin Buttes Celebration Committee. “We’re pretty laid back. We like to take care of visitors because then, when they go home, they’ll tell others the good things we have going on.”

Howling Wolf said often first time visitors come to the powwow and wonder about the different traditions, costumes, and dances. They’re encouraged to ask about meanings of events, dances, dresses, and costumes. The morning flag raising at 8:00 a.m. is one of the most stirring moments of the 3-day events, a patriotic and memorable ceremony where flag songs, honor generations of those who have served and died.

What to expect — Some of the most spectacular colors and movements are at the Grand Entries. They’re at 7:00 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The Friday Grand Entry starts the dance contest. Through the weekend, in each category of dancing, judges rate the dancers on a number of elements. They come from tribal nations from all over the United States to get a shot at the prize money. “If they don’t win, it’s tough to afford to get to the next powwow,” said Cory Spotted Bear, the Twin Buttes Business Councilman.

The hospitality of the Mandan and Hidatsa people is legendary. Thomas Jefferson instructed the Corps of Discovery to seek out the Mandan and Hidatsa, and when they did, the indigenous people welcomed the explorer and gave them a home for several months.

That same welcoming spirit greets visitors who come for a couple hours, an entire day, or the weekend. “We make sure they’re fed and cared for,” Howling Wolf said. Both days, Saturday the 17th and Sunday the 18th at 6:00 p.m. are community feeds when everyone is invited and encouraged to get in line at the long tables to eat traditional and modern foods. “We don’t want anyone to go away hungry,” she laughed.

Other activities at Twin Buttes Celebration — For 62 years, the Twin Buttes powwow has celebrated the culture. The powwow grounds were moved to the current location many years ago. Then recently, the arbor was expanded. Ahead of this year’s celebration, more upgrades are underway. “We see the Twin Buttes Powwow as a homecoming. It’s a rich display of living history,” said Spotted Bear. “We like visitors to come in and experience our heritage that is living today.”

He said the weekend has more traditional activities and contests such as a horse race and a wellness walk. The fun and competition expands in to the town of Twin Buttes where organizers are planning a softball tournament, a basketball tournament, and a horseshoe match.

The Twin Buttes powwow ground is east of the town of Twin Buttes on Highway 22. It’s a scenic drive to the grounds, topped only by the beauty of the valley next to an inlet of Lake Sakakawea. Food vendors and others are on site, and there’s plenty of parking.

About Mike Kopp

Mike Kopp is the writer for Beautiful Badlands ND. He is a career journalist in television and radio news. As a newspaper editor in western North Dakota, he won six awards for newspaper photography, seven for newspaper writing, and five awards for broadcast documentaries. His photos have sold in galleries across North Dakota and are known for “sense of place and time.” Mike has hiked, canoed, camped, and explored the Badlands of North Dakota for over 35 years.

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