By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – For the first time in what many believe to be several decades – or possibly even the first-time ever – a wacipi (or powwow) was held in the community of Hot Springs this past Saturday, March 3, inside Case Auditorium.
Local organizer Doug Gaulke, who heads up the Indian Education program at Hot Springs High School, said planning for the event began about a year ago with the intent to get the community of Hot Springs more involved with Native American culture, while also providing a way for Native American students and residents to see that it was possible to do in their hometown. Gaulke was assisted in planning the event by Vinny Alessi-Narr, who is a native of Germany but now makes his home in the Black Hills and helps with the Indian Education program in Hot Springs.
A wacipi – powwow – is a Native American gathering focused on dance, song and family celebration. Powwows celebrate the connections to tradition and spirituality, to the Earth and to one another in a social, personal and spiritual meeting.
The Hot Springs Wacipi this past Saturday featured two separate sessions, including a Grand Entry of dancers and participants at around 1 p.m. and then another at around 5 p.m.
Gaulke said an event like this has many parts, so organizing it and inviting all of the participants took a lot of work. He said he wasn’t sure if they would have 50 people attend or 300 people attend.
But as it would end up, attendance did indeed reach the high end of that estimate with about 300 attendees over the two sessions.
It is Gaulke’s hope to host the Hot Springs Wacipi annually each year, with plans to expand it next year to possibly include the Hot Springs VA while also offering more Native American food items, including buffalo stew and others.
Brett Nachtigall/Fall River County Herald
Tom Ghost Dog leads all of the other participants in the grand entrance during the first session of the first-ever Hot Springs Wacipi, held inside Case Auditorium at the Hot Springs Schools this past Saturday, March 3.