Friday, August 29, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Dancers bring love of culture to powwow

Noralene Scalplock, 9, of Sacramento, pals around with other dancers before the grand entry at the UC Davis Contest Powwow on Saturday. Scalplock's mother, Henrietta McGurk, who dances for a living, spent months on the elaborate bead work on her daughter's outfit. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

By
April 2, 2011 |

Before you could see Henrietta McGurk on Saturday, you could hear the tinkling metal of the jingle dress in her garment bag.

McGurk joined about 150 dancers at the 39th annual UC Davis Contest Powwow at The Pavilion.

Some, like McGurk, dance for a living. Others, like Alorha Baga, who lives and teaches dance on the Santa Rosa Rancheria, do it for joy alone.

All, they say, dance out of love for their culture.

McGurk, a 40-year-old full-time student and mother of four from Sacramento, is of Navajo and Apache heritage.

She was among about two dozen members of her family on hand. She made fast work of the long braids on the girls, who when freed spun and laughed, drank Capri Sun and played on cell phones as circles of drummers thumped and sang.

McGurk worked with comb and hair spray for well over an hour before unpacking her own dress.

“This is my way of life. This is how I make my living. It makes us feel good. To be here with family is the best feeling in the world,” she said.

Like many women dancers, McGurk and Baga wear bright dresses adorned with dozens of small metal cones. The dresses can weigh 10 pounds or more.

Legend holds that the jingle dress first appeared in the dream of an Ojibwe medicine man whose daughter fell ill.

Once in her new dress, the sick girl still needed to be carried around the room. On her second trip around the room, she needed the help of others to walk. On the third, she walked her own. By her fourth trip, the girl was dancing.

McGurk has danced for as long as she can remember.

Fifteen years ago, she gave up her job at Sacramento’s Native American Health Center when she and her former husband began dancing professionally at powwows.

Prize money varies, but a dancer can win upwards of $2,000 at a large event. Organizers of UCD’s event prefer not to say how much they hand out, except that it’s enough to help many dancers afford the trip.

McGurk has traveled across the country and north to Alberta, Canada, competing almost every weekend, year-round. Most of the time, she drives to the powwows.

It’s given her kids the chance to see the Statue of Liberty and the Florida Keys, when many of their classmates have never left California.

McGurk’s oldest child, Celeste Osife, who was unable to attend on Saturday, is in her third year as a UCD psychology and Native American studies major. McGurk is majoring in business at Sacramento City College and is considering applying to UCD.

For now, dancing is her occupation as well as her passion.

She sews a new jingle dress every three or four months. The construction of each dress takes about a week and costs $400 or $500.

McGurk’s not particular about fabric — “anything pretty” will do — but on Saturday her red satin dress with a white collar included designs of blue and gold. On it hung about 200 metal cones.

Traditionally, the cones were made from the lids of snuff cans. These days, they’re sold pre-made.

With the dress, she wore an elaborate blue beaded head piece, feathers and beaded earrings. The bead work on a dress can take upwards of six months to complete and can cost $1,500, $3,000 or more, McGurk said.

“I still love it. I love dancing. Some people love their job — I love my job,” she said.

As McGurk spoke, girls whirled with bright shawls. A man in traditional headdress looked on, eating Cheetos. Eagle feather bustles hung on camera tripods.

Cameras flashed now and then from the surrounding seats.

On the walkway above, visitors nosed around craft booths. Outside, others lined up for tacos or strawberry shortcake made with fry bread.

Baga, 30, joined 11 family members at the powwow, including her son and daughter. She said she hoped they would soak up the intertribal culture and feel the same sense of pride she still feels when dancing.

She attends powwows across the region, mostly during the summer months. She has danced as far away as Colorado and South Dakota.

“I do it because I was raised that way and I do it for the joy of it,” said Baga, who carried a fan of feathers. “It’s always a perk to place, but I go to powwows where there aren’t prizes and treat them the same.

“It’s an honor to get out there and dance.”

Baga designs a new jingle dress about once per year and is partial to the “flame” colors of red, yellow and orange she wore Saturday. Her cousin sews the dresses.

Baga does her own beading, though, drawing on traditional designs that are in keeping with her Rosebud heritage. Many dancers do the same, mixing imaginative flair in their dresses while holding fast to tribal tradition in their breaded bracelets and other accessories.

A great dancer has put time into both her appearance and her zigzagging footwork, McGurk said, and keeps rhythm well.

Great dancers move both with energy and lightness of foot.

Said Baga, “You can tell by their poise if they’re connecting with the drum. You can see their spirit in their dance.”

Comments

comments

Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter. http://about.me/cory_golden
  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Saving Putah Creek: a quiet concert at sunset

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Mr. Dolcini goes to Washington

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Winton to be feted for her many years of community work

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Davis Innovation Center team fields questions

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Researchers solve mystery of Death Valley’s moving rocks

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    California extends review of $25B delta plan

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Assembly approves statewide ban on plastic bags

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Celebrate the Senior Center at Sept. 9 luncheon

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Equestrian eventing competition slated

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Dinner, auction benefit Yolo County CASA

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Forum explores local mental health services

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Solar-cooking workshop set at Food Co-op

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Kids can sign up for a library card and get a free book

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Explorit Science Center: Volunteers supercharge summer camp

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Tee off for Davis’ continued prosperity

    By Lily Holmes | From Page: A4

     
     
    Bodega Marine Laboratory hosts open house

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Local group charts a year’s worth of beauty in flowers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Free blood pressure screenings offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Name Droppers: UCD honors two of its own

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

     
    Books, conversation and poetry at Logos

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Forum

    Let’s sell the MRAP on eBay

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

     
    Seeing both sides of ‘tank’

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    What if we need MRAP?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

     
    How could tank be helpful?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: C2

    Don’t sentence our police to death

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: C2, 1 Comment

     
    Will Davis see river water?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    Travel buddy is getting too fat

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    .

    Sports

    Forget the score; focus on the energy brought by Aggies

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    Returning seniors, new faces lead promising DHS links squad

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devil golfers return from Scotland with smiles on their faces

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Devils scrimmage with Sac

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD-Stanford: the clock is down to counting the minutes

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    Wire briefs: Aces cruise past Cats at Raley

    By Wire and staff reports | From Page: B6

    Sports briefs: DHS girls fall by the slimmest of net margins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    ‘The November Man’: Who can be trusted?

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    B Street’s ‘The Ladies Foursome’ is aces

    By Bev Sykes | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    Technology makes a great car better

    By Ali Arsham | From Page: C1 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Elaine Dracia Greenberg

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Margarita Elizondo

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics