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Oneida Tribe's Annual Pow Wow Brings Tradition Alive

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Native American powwows are cultural gatherings, and they are competitions. Prize money is at stake for dancers. As part of our summer series, The World's A Stage, we go to Oneida Indian Reservation near Green Bay, Wis., to listen in.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ASHLEY RILEY: My name is Ashley Riley. I'm a Ojibwe. I dance the old-style fancy shawl. They call it the butterfly dance, too, because it's really graceful and beautiful. And it's developed more into a contemporary style as well, a lot more light steps and higher jumps and kicks.

I started dancing, probably, about when I was 5 years old. My parents, they got us little fancy shawl outfits. And me and my sisters - they kind of pushed us out into the powwows and was like, go dance.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Beating drums, chanting).

CRAIG MERICK: My name is Craig Merick. I live in Berkeley, Calif. I'm originally from Lame Deer, Mont. - travel all over the country - Native country - from the West Coast all the way to the East Coast. So Native people, they travel the Indian circuit kind of like the way cowboys do with the rodeo.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Beating drums, chanting).

DAKOTA KALOLOKS IRELAND: My name is Dakota Kaloloks Ireland, from Oneida Nation of the Thames in Canada. Smoke dance is a really fast dance. And women only dance fast. I don't know if you've seen the men, but they do both. And that's - it comes from a war dance. And they only did that when they needed, like, the thunders and rains to come or - and, like, before they were going to war. I just started a few years ago, and I thought, well, it's part of my culture. I should learn it. And now I just really love it. And it feels, like, natural now. It's effortless.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Beating drums, chanting).

GREENE: Our visit to the Oneida tribe's annual powwow was produced by Ann-Elise Henzl, from member station WUWM in Milwaukee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.