In many Native cultures, to be gay is not judged in the same way as mainstream society; people are totally accepted as having the power of both sexes. Such people are known as Contrary.
Your trail through present-day Cheyenne homelands in the Big Sky state of Montana reveals a courageous history echoed across the bluffs and buttes of the West, where stories pulse from the pounding hooves of wild mustangs and the names of those brave immortalizers of the Cheyenne tribal legacy sing on prairie winds.
Experience the exhilaration of powwow – a celebration of culture and pride wrapped in cascading colors, traditional dress, song and dance. You will never forget the moment you first saw the People dance, or felt the heartbeat of all Indian nations – the drum, as the youngest children take their place alongside elders in the arbor. We spend two evenings mingling with tribal members who gather for this celebration from the four directions, marveling at the spectacular color and beauty. The traditions have survived and so have the Morning Star People – the Cheyenne.
Is an add-on available? Yes – actually, two! This journey works in three parts and although each segment melds into the next and create a total experience, you can split them if you don’t have enough time for all three.
Day 1, Thursday, August 30: Arrive Billings, Montana (BIL) and shuttle to your hotel for a relaxed evening prior to the commencement of your journey into Cheyenne culture.
Day 2, Friday, August 31: Orienting ourselves in the best-kept secret in the West - the breath-taking natural wonder that is the Bighorn Canyon - we learn that wild mustangs range in the shadow of the Canyon amidst the Pryor Mountains and we go in search of the survivors of the Horse Nations proudest days. Our evening ascent to the plateau of the Bighorns is rewarded by the same panoramic views the ancient Cheyenne enjoyed and, thanks to zero light pollution we have confirmation that there are 10 times more stars in the night sky than grains of sand in the world's deserts and beaches! We discuss tribal star knowledge and its acceptance and use by NASA. Stay: Bighorn Mountains.
Day 3, Saturday, September 1: Experience one of the most sacred sites in the world, the Medicine Wheel atop Medicine Mountain in the Bighorn Mountains. We discuss the Massaum Ceremony, ‘the medicine dance of the ancients’, a beautiful and integral part of the traditional Cheyenne culture in it’s formation in which the wolf and the ‘Wolf’s Lodge’ is essential to creation, to life, and renewal in the spiritual and physical. While anyone can visit a powwow and enjoy the atmosphere, sounds and sights, we prefer to comprehend the intricacies of what we are seeing, to understand what we are hearing, and to synchronize with local etiquette. Our powwow seminar is the route to that appreciation. Stay: Sheridan, WY.
Day 4, Sunday, September 2: At the awe-inspiring Deer Medicine Rocks, where Sitting Bull’s vision of soldiers without ears, falling like grasshoppers upside down into camp can still be seen, we interpret the meaning and significance of great names that were bestowed upon great leaders such as Sitting Bull and Tall Bull and relate those symbols of identification in translation to sacred rock art.
We stand before rugged cliff faces and amazing sandstone features to witness visual representations of the sacred where the voices of the Old Ones resonate through the images in stone. Grand Entry at any powwow is a highlight. Gazing into the arbor, we hear them before we see them; ankle bells jangling, dresses jingling and drums pounding. Honoring modern-day Cheyenne warriors is prioritized as the colors of the veterans are paraded, bringing onlookers to their feet with one accord.
Then the arbor begins to fill with feathers, porcupine quills, deer-hair, bells, tassels, bustles, hide, and fur. Mimicking animal movement, males dancers dart, lunge and jerk, their intricate footwork fit to rival any River Dance as they glide and swoop with uncanny grace, while traditional ladies from eight to eighty dip and sway in synchronized perfection with the whooping, mystic drummers and singers. Stay: Sheridan, WY.
Day 5, Monday, September 3: We relive the Rosebud Battle, looking across the vast sweep of the field, viewing the terrain as Crazy horse and Custer saw it that June day just one week before the cataclysmic Battle of the Little Bighorn. The Battle Where The Girl Saved Her Brother went down in Cheyenne history as an event of prodigious bravery, and brought Buffalo Calf Trail Woman to spiritual immortality amongst her people.
Amid the US Cavalry however, this battle is not so well remembered. Had the Lakota and Cheyenne not prevailed, would the Little Bighorn ever have happened? This night we join the excitement at the local Northern Cheyenne powwow. Beneath the moon, the dancers stomp and whirl. As the drumming builds they twist, turn and leap, lighting the arbor with Native pride and the sheer joy of being Cheyenne.
Day 6, Tuesday, September 4: Depart from Billings, Montana, or EXTEND YOUR JOURNEY: On The Trail Of Brother Wolf.
Day 6, Tuesday, September 4: Trace the switchbacks along the Beartooth Pass across the most ravishing landscapes Montana and Wyoming have to offer. Leveling onto the plateau then connecting with to the Chief Joseph Byway our destination is the northeast gateway to Yellowstone National Park and America's Serengeti – the Lamar Valley; home to wolves, grizzly bears and elk. Our evening is spent ‘spotting’ for wolves in the Valley. Stay: Cooke City.
Day 7, Wednesday, September 5: On the trail of the wolf we learn that Yellowstone is Indian Country as we reconnect with Mother Earth in this unfinished land; an earth sculpture in the making! For here in this special land where we will explore the region's Native history and culture, are studded more geysers, fumaroles and mud pots than any other place on the planet. Just as the human beings and the buffalo share an ancient compact, so too do the wolf and the buffalo, and the wolf and the human beings.
The wolf taught many to hunt, and would call others to share the bounty, and we learn of that tradition – of the wolf as a teacher, and how the wolf is revered in Cheyenne and other Plains cultures, to the extent that the scouts of the people, those who guide, those who bring warnings and messages, are referred to as “wolves.” At dusk we will seek the twilight hunter and listen for the mysterious music of his song. Stay: Pahaska.
Day 8, Thursday, September 6: Within Cheyenne culture, the Bowstrings Military Society members have an ancient connection to the wolf; learn why the Bowstrings are called "Wolf Soldiers", and the leader of the society, the "Wolf Chief". We learn the ways of the wolf both spiritually and scientifically. Stay: Billings.
Day 9, Friday, September 7: Depart from Billings, MT.
OR EXTEND AGAIN for a once in a lifetime chance...
Take inspiration from Native lands. Then start a creation with your own hands. For Jackie Larson Bread, beadwork is her life’s passion and one look at her museum-quality creations explains why her pieces are considered a Native American fine art and are sought after by collectors worldwide.
Join Jackie to gain an understanding of the design and process of traditional Blackfoot beadwork. Jackie’s workshop includes discussion and hands-on project design to create a small beaded picture and you will also learn how to progress from a hand-drawn image idea to an intricately beaded bag, box, or other traditional utilitarian items.
Whether you are a total beginner or have beading skills already, Jackie can help and inspire you as she generously offers forth the skills (plus a few tricks) of her trade.
Growing up on the Blackfeet Reservation, beadwork was apart of Jackie’s family tradition and as a young girl Jackie learned the delicate art of beading by watching her grandmother. The mission of this fabulous opportunity to work with Jackie is learning to create beauty for yourself. Who knows, perhaps in that process you may start a new family tradition of your own.
Day 9, Friday, September 7: In the luxurious surroundings of The Cody (an upscale eco-boutique with a serious commitment to the environment) we begin our beading workshop led by Jackie Larson Bread. After lunch we’ll take a break at the world's premiere museum of The West, the Buffalo Bill Historical Society where we spend time in the fabulous Plains Indian Gallery admiring and learning from historic beadwork, before returning to our haven of creativity for the evening.
Day 10, Saturday, September 8: After a delicious organic breakfast, we spend the morning in continuance of our beading projects under Jackie’s expert tutelage. Today’s lunch break is at the historic hotel named for Buffalo Bill’s hapless daughter, Irma, then we take a little time to explore the tantalizing western stores and galleries on Cody’s Main Street. Recommencing mid-afternoon we bead, discuss and learn deep into the evening.
Day 11, Sunday, September 9: Depart from Cody, WY (COD).
Tour pricing is tiered according to add-ons and also dependent on how many people waill share a room. Please call to discuss your wishes, and to check if you qualify for our generous discounts.
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