Moab hasn’t had a powwow—a Native American cultural heritage celebration and ceremonial gathering—in as long as Jacob Crane, executive director for the Salt Lake Air Protectors, can remember. This September, the SLC Air Protectors partnered with the local Full Circle Intertribal Center to host the first ever Red Sand Powwow on September 11 and 12.
“We chose Moab because tourists across the world come here and we wanted to make sure that our message is brought to the forefront,” Crane said. “And that we can share the message of power, which is unity and healing through song and dance.”
The SLC Air Protectors is a Native American-led nonprofit organization that was formed broadly to protect the environment, specifically to bring light to the lack of clean air in Salt Lake City. The organization was inspired by the elders at Standing Rock, who fight for clean water in their community.
They chose to partner with the Full Circle Intertribal Center, a Moab-based non-profit supporting and promoting wellness through Native American culture, simply because the two organizations haven’t worked much together before.
The Red Sand Powwow isn’t just for Native communities, Crane said. He invites everyone—Native communities, allies, and anyone wishing to learn—to come to the event.
“It’s for all of our communities,” he said.
The Red Sand Powwow will feature a dance and drum contest led by Master of Ceremony Bart Powaukee from Fort Dushane, Utah; Arena Director Devan Kicknosway from Walpole Island, Ontario, Canada; and Host Drum Young Spirit from Frog Lake, Alberta, Canada.
There will also be an old style jingle dress special and a grass dance special. The grass dance and the drums have long been a part of powwows.
According to the Sacred Springs Powwow, presented each year by the Indigenous Cultures Institute, the grass dance is an intertribal tradition adapted from warrior dances. As for the drums: “without a drum, there is no powwow,” the Sacred Springs Powwow wrote on their website, noting that the “drums” at a powwow refers to the both instrument and the players.
At the Red Sand Powwow, the performances and competitions will be at the center of the arena. Surrounding the center will be food vendors, arts and crafts vendors, and informational booths.
The theme of this year’s powwow is “healing and unity through dance, music and celebration,” picked because that’s what Crane believes the world needs right now. We’re still living in devastating a pandemic, he said. Native communities especially faced disproportionate rates of infection, hospitalization, and casualty from COVID-19 this past year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We wanted to give a chance for everybody to heal through song and dance holistically, through traditional ways of how we do things,” he said. “Movement is medicine.”
The powwow will last for two days, running Saturday, September 11 from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Sunday, September 12 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Old Spanish Trail Arena, located on south Highway 191.
It’s sponsored by the American Indian Graduate Center, Utah Division of Indian Affairs, AES, and Navajo Strong, Heal Utah, Waterford Upstart, Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, Turtle Island Collective, Indigenous Health and Wellness Connection, Ludlem family and the Crane family.
Grand Entries, where everyone participating in the dance and drum contest will enter the arena, will be held on Saturday at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. and on Sunday at 12 p.m. General admission is $8. Admission for dancers and singers is $3. Everyone is asked to bring a mask.
What: Red Sand Powwow
When: Saturday, September 11 from 12 to 10 p.m. and Sunday, September 12 from 12 to 6 p.m.
Where: Old Spanish Trail Arena, 3641 S. Highway 191, Moab
More information can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/old-spanish-trail-arena/red-sand-powwow/1696077083923783.