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Red Leaf Takoja - A Living Hoop: Celebrating Life at the Denver March Powwow

Red Leaf Takoja - A Living Hoop: Celebrating Life at the Denver March Powwow
Red Leaf Takoja - A Living Hoop: Celebrating Life at the Denver March Powwow
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The story behind the Denver March Powwow Song  $20.00

A video exploration of that springtime explosion of exuberant dance and joyous song known as Denver March Powwow focusing on the origin and performance of its theme song "A Living Hoop," known universally as the Denver March Powwow Song, and the music of Red Leaf Takoja, one of Indian America's most revered drum groups

Denver March Powwow Historical Note

From long before the arrival of white settlers in the Front Range region in Colorado, the area around Denver has been a crossroads for Native American people. In 2008, Denver is still a hub of commercial, governmental, social, and political activity and health care for Indian people in the western US. It is perhaps no surprise then that the first Denver Native Americans United Inc. Youth Enrichment Program Powwow, held at the former Temple Immanuel synagogue at 16th and Gaylord Streets in east Denver in March 1974, opened to a standing room only crowd composed of Indian people from all over the western US. In 1977, the powwow became a committee function of DNAU (which morphed into the Denver Indian Center.) In 1980, the name was changed to the Denver March Powwow, and the site was moved to the National Western Stock Show Arena in north Denver. Later it moved across the street to the Denver Coliseum, its present site. In 1984 the Denver March Powwow Committee incorporated as an independent 501(c)3 non profit corporation.

From its beginning as a dance celebrating community youth enrichment, Denver March Powwow Committee has kept an exemplary focus on its primary mission: preserving and protecting the traditional performing arts of American Indian people. The powwow has evolved into three annual major events: 1) an arts and crafts show with over 185 vendors, 2) a music festival with over 30 drum groups, and 3) a dance competition with over 1000 registered dancers. Today it is the largest community-based powwow in the US.

In addition to supporting and preserving the American Indian performing arts, ample time is made available for traditional honoring ceremonies and other "specials" that highlight the skill or achievements of a particular individual or group. The success of the Denver March Powwow has provided funding and encouragement which have enabled the Powwow Committee to stage numerous other powwows and events throughout the year to benefit and enrich the lives of the Denver Indian community.

Judging by the numbers of registered powwow participants, this approach has resonated enthusiastically with Indian people. After a long winter of snow and local powwows, Denver is the first of the year's big powwows and singers, dancers, spectators and vendors alike everyone who follows the powwow trail is eager to come to Denver to renew acquaintances and celebrate the dawning powwow season.

Starting sometime in January, all over the US and Canada where Indian music is played on radio and/or in other public venues, the Denver March Powwow Song issues its sirens call over the airwaves. By the time the third weekend in March rolls around, enthusiasm has reached fever pitch and hundreds of carloads of people have descended on Denver from all directions.

Although numbers of registrants vary from year to year, over 70 drum groups and 1000 dressed dancers have been known to make the initial Grand Entry on Friday night Attendance at the 2007 Powwow was estimated at over 50,000 people. No one who has seen the color, camaraderie and majesty of a Friday Grand Entry will ever forget it. In 1988, the Red Leaf Takoja Singers, then headquartered in Taos, NM, were asked to sing an honor song for Margaret Tyon and Nadine Rendon, longtime stalwarts of the Denver Native American community. During the giveaway that followed, the powwow committee formally asked (Red Leaf Takoja) lead singer Howard Bad Hand to compose a special song to honor the Native American peo- ple of the Denver area and the Denver March Powwow.

Normally a prolific and imaginative song catcher, Howard was stumped. Eleven months of contemplation did not produce a song. Finally, in early March, two weeks before the song was to be sung at the Grand Entry, Howard was in Denver and gazing idly at the profile of Mt Evans and the Front Range west of Denver when he caught the beginnings of a melody that mimicked the ups and downs of that mountainous profile. He listened further and began to work with the elements of the melody which eventually became the melody of A Living Hoop, known universally as the Denver March Powwow Song.

Lakota people in Howard's native South Dakota have long known the Front Range as the White Mountains and the people who live along the front range as the White Mountain People. Because the spirits the Lakota people work with in their spiritual activities also have their origin in the Front Range, they too are thought of as the White Mountain People. It struck Howard that this dance, the Denver March Powwow, and the white Mountain people who stage and support it, were manifesting a living hoop . . . a complete expression of the circle of life. The lyrics of the song honor both the physical and transcendental world and suggest that this annual springtime explosion of joy as expressed in song and dance attracts support not only from Grandfather Spirit and Grandmother Earth, but from the beneficent powers that abide in the depths of the universe as well.

In the years since it was first sung in March 1989, A Living Hoop (The Denver March Powwow Song) has become the most readily recognized powwow song in North America. Smiles, fond memories and toe-tapping good feelings are engendered whenever the song is heard. Red Leaf Takoja members appearing on this video presentation: Howard, Terrie, and Pat Bad Hand, Tom Teegarden, Richard Archuleta, Harold Cordova, Esther Romero, David and Andrea Gomez, and Tony B Martinez with vocal support from Luke Young, Michelle, Donna Concha, Alice Martinez, and Erin, Erika and Jeremy Bad Hand. Heart Beat members who helped to record the current version of Strong Dancing Song (Shout Song #1) for this DVD are Howard, Terrie, Erin, Erika and Kristina Bad Hand, Tom Teegarden, and Richard Archuleta. 4 year old Cruz Lujan also participated in the singing. The recording was completed in early March 2008 in Taos.

 

CREDITS

Produced and Directed by
Howard Bad Hand

Executive Producer
John Pruit

Narration
Howard Bad Hand

Post Production and Video Editing Services
Howard Bad Hand, High Star Productions Studio, Taos, NM

Still Photographs
Erin Bad Hand, Howard Bad Hand, John Pruit

Audio Mixing
Howard Bad Hand

Denver March Powwow Board Members Interviewed For This Production:
Grace Gillette, Executive Director; Ken Ledoux, President,
Board of Directors; Virginia Young Dog Irvin, Chairperson,
Sales Committee; Diane Buck: Secretary-Treasurer;
Nancy Rouillard, Chairperson, registration Committee

Interviewer
Howard Bad Hand

Camera Operator for Interviews
Howard Bad Hand

Video Commentary About Denver March Powwow And Songs
Erin, Erika and Kristina Bad Hand

Camera Operators for Video Commentary
Howard Bad Hand, John Pruit

Opening Song and Closing Tail Instrumental,
Orchestration and Female Vocals
Denean, Denean.com, Taos, NM

Male Vocals
Howard Bad Hand

Recorded at
Sungmanitou Ska Recording Studio, Taos, NM

Stock footage from
High Star Productions, Inc, and Sagebrush Productions

Camera operators for Sagebrush Productions footage
Paul Vachier, Terence McCarthy

Cover Image Editing
Geraint Smith, www.geraintsmith.com, Taos, NM

Cover/Insert Design
Kate Field, Fine Line, Santa Fe, NM

SONG CREDITS

STRONG DANCING SONG (SHOUT SONG #1)

Composed by
Howard Bad Hand.
Soundtrack recorded at the studios of
High Star Productions, Inc. in Taos, NM.
by Heart Beat (formerly Red Leaf Takoja.)

A LIVING HOOP (THE DENVER MARCH POWWOW SONG)

Composed by
Howard Bad Hand.
Soundtrack was from the 'A Living Hoop' cassette
recording performed and produced by
Red Leaf Takoja in 1991.
Digitally enhanced and mastered for CD by
Howard Bad Hand in 2008.

Video footage excerpted from
Red Leaf Takoja: Song of the Heart Beat, a 2005

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