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Native American Culture and Powwow on the Plains

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Key Information:
Tour Duration: 7 - 14 day(s)
Group Size: 8 - 12 people
Destination(s): Montana   Wyoming  
Specialty Categories: Cultural Journey   Festival Tours  
Season: June
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: No
Minimum Per Person Price: 2295 US Dollar (USD)
Maximum Per Person Price: 2295 US Dollar (USD)


All cultures on this planet acknowledge rock. On this special journey through some of the oldest rock on the planet, we attempt to decipher human and ecological codes left through the ages in the beauty of the Bighorn Mountains, the serenity of Wind River Canyon, and the immense splendor of the Tetons. We savor the sights and sounds of Powwow on the Arapaho Reservation, investigate communicative patterns in the Rock Art of the Old Ones, and as we traverse the plains, mountains, plains, desert and canyons we search out the ultimate in lasting memories.

Your guide for this extraordinary explanation of cultures storied in stone, says “I am a Lakota and so my world-view and values are still steeped in natural law, and of course our explanation and understanding of creation and our genesis is derived and practiced with a relationship to All That Is. Rocks are alive and talk to those that listen.”

Jhon (Oglala Lakota) is a renowned Lakota silversmith and Master of many artistic techniques, both traditional and contemporary, and as such he creates Art that blends with the Lakota way of life. A devoted lapidary, his unique creations feature agates which have taken millions of years to form, and just months to transform into fine wearable art utilizing his wealth of artistic technique.

In the Lakota language Wotawe is the melding of the blood of the earth. Inyan, the first rock in creation, turned himself inside out, becoming brittle and causing his blood to become water. When you view Jhon’s work, his agates attest to this ancient phenomenon. An integral part of this journey will be the opportunity to search for your own special rock, appreciate its genesis, understand its cultural significance and with Jhon’s expert guidance to create your own timeless piece of wearable art.

Tour Itinerary:

Day 1 (Sun June 17): Arrive in Billings, MT and after shuttling to your hotel, spend a relaxing evening prior to meeting your group next morning in the lobby. Stay: Billings, MT.

Day 2 (Mon June 18): After a short orientation with Lakota guide Jhon Goes In Center we begin our journey on the water, floating through the Bighorn Canyon, and exploring Bad Pass Trail, a 10,000 year old beaten pathway studded with tipi rings and over 500 rock cairns. We enjoy a night-sky in the Bighorn Mountains and as we star-gaze, devoid of light pollution, we ponder Lakota Star Knowledge. Stay: Bighorn Mountains.

Day 3 (Tues June 19): Legend Rock is Petroglyph heaven! The experts call this a Proto-Shoshonean art site, but separated from that, we peel back the layers of academic misrepresentation and find that within the boundaries of the rock art site known as Legend Rock exists a graphic representation of the creation explanation held by the Arapaho, Cheyenne and their Algonquin kin. Stay: Thermopolis.

Day 4 (Wed June 20): What a treat… on this, summer solstice, we float and skim down the Wind River Canyon, stopping for a delicious lunch at a tipi camp. For those who’d like to brave the rapids (mainly 3s and one good 4), enjoy the white water route, and for those who prefer the calm of a leisurely scenic float, have your camera at the ready as you glide through the rock of ages. This evening we spend (optional) time with Jhon in a practical workshop setting, learning the basics and intricacies of silverwork and jewelry setting. Stay: Riverton, WY.

Day 5 (Thurs June 21): The imagery at Castle Gardens represents the power of traditional belief and ceremony, and the ability of the faithful to be able to transport themselves and visualize that which is beyond the linear boundaries of the western contemporary mind. We spend our morning amid the barren high plains desert beauty, decoding messages from the Old Ones. This afternoon we explore the Shoshone Indian reservation as preparations are made for the biggest event of the year on Wind River. Stay: Riverton, WY.

Day 6 (Fri June 22): It’s the Fort Washakie Powwow – the largest and most flamboyant powwow in Wyoming. We join the excitement at this outstanding local powwow, soaking in the joy and the power of the dancers, singers and drummers as they stomp and whirl, whoop and scream, beat and pulse. Traditional dancers, fancy dancers, grass dancers, chicken hop dancers - they are all dancing, because any Native Powwow is the very embodiment of Native Pride and on this day we see the continuance of culture past to present to future. Stay: Dubois, WY.

Day 7 (Sat June 23): The Oxbow Bend of the Snake River is as famous a vista as the Grand Tetons soaring out of the Jackson Hole Valley and on this day we invigorate our spirits and discuss the many manifestations of Inyan we have experienced as we luxuriate in the sheer beauty that surrounds us. In whose tribal footsteps did you walk? Did you cross the trails of the Ancients? And which of the raw rock treasures you have gathered this week will you transform to your shining Keeper of the Memories? Stay: Togwatee, WY.

Day 8 (Sun June 24): Depart Jackson WY, CAN I EXTEND MY TRIP? Sure you can... look at this! If you have the time to stay a while, do we have the perfect complimentary extension to this tour?! DON'T MISS the opportunity to work with Master Bead Artist, Jackie Larson Bread (Blackfeet). Whether you are a beginner or an expert you will love your time with Jackie, and the opportunity to try other native arts too.


Artisans arrive from the world over to take inspiration from this place of creation where the land is still in the making. To some it may seem paradoxical that staying up late working on projects could be restful, but to be immersed in the company of creative people amid incredible natural wonder and earth beauty is a release from modern life that relaxes and invigorates you. Indigenous peoples have integrated arts into their everyday life through the millennia - think of quill and beadwork for personal adornment, decorated parfleches for storage, historical record keeping in the form of ‘Winter Counts’ etched in hide, and petroglyph and pictographic images enlivening rock walls.

In 2012 the materials and techniques may have changed, but not the sentiments. Today’s beaded sneakers and shirts, or a tribal photography exhibition depicting current reservation life, bead-wired jewelry for adornment, multi media fine art, and even scrapbooking to preserve family memories and history, all are logical progressions of indigenous expression. Take this unique opportunity to learn how to capture the natural beauty you experience and to transform it into artistic objects you can integrate into your everyday life.

A photojournalist will define and communicate the transformation from ‘snap’ to ‘image’, a Blackfeet master craftswoman will infuse you with her infectious passion for native beading, new skills with jewelry findings and old crafting traditions translates to wearable personal memories, and if you adapt the Winter Count philosophy into scrapbooking skills your dexterity will make you your family Keeper Of The Memories. We all originate from tribal peoples. Take this path toward the artistic expression of what lies within you and the beauty of Mother Earth.

Tour Itinerary:

Day 1 (Sun 24th June): Arrive Cody and enjoy a relaxed evening at your hotel. Stay: Cody, WY.

Day 2 (Mon 25th June): Meet your fellow tour members and participate in a brief orientation on route to the magical land. Amid the grandeur that is Yellowstone our focus this morning is photography; how to capture your moments of inspiration using the technical features and settings of any digital camera, plus the artistic elements of composition, design, color management, white balance, and focal point.

Our workshop leader – a photojournalist himself, nurtures your ability to sense something intangible in a scene and convey that to the viewer of your imagery. Our afternoon and evening is spent in the company of Jackie Larson Bread, internationally renowned beadwork artist, with whom we 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. Stay: Yellowstone

Day 3 (Tues 26th June): There are more geysers, mud pots and fumaroles in this land than anywhere else on the plant, and this morning we absorb the sights of Morning Glory and draw upon that inspiration in our continued beadwork workshop. Whether you are a total beginner or have beading skills already, Jackie will help and inspire you as she generously offers forth the skills (plus a few tricks) of her trade and under her tutelage you will learn how to progress from a hand-drawn image idea to an intricately beaded bag, box, or other traditional utilitarian items. Stay: Yellowstone.

Day 4 (Wed 27th June): Our day is about furthering your own vision and voice, as we create a bridge from the medium of the still image to each tour member’s unique perspective. Today’s moment of inspiration comes as we seek the wolves of Yellowstone in their Hayden Valley home; in the beauty of this expansive vista we watch and wait for the four-leggeds to show themselves, and we gaze as the moon rises toward fullness. Stay: Pahaska.

Day 5 (Thurs 28th June): To witness the thunderous hooves, limitless grace and sheer power and beauty of the Wild Mustangs means we must rise with the dawn, but in this raw and barren high plains desert-scape, of color-banded rock and prickly pear, you feel you’d have done anything not to miss this sight. Later we recall the movement and grace of the mustangs as we learn the rudiments, and put theory to practice in the creation of jewelry which will ever remind us of this wondrous experience. Stay: Cody, WY.

Day 6 (Fri 29th June): At the Buffalo Bill Historical Center’s Plains Indians Gallery we view the communicative patterns and designs used by indigenous people of this region and ponder the meaning and inspiration points for such intricate and dazzling art. Later in Cody, we enjoy lunch and a presentation on keeping memories in beauty, then spend the afternoon and into the evening practicing the modern Winter Count skills we have gained. Stay: Billings, MT.

Day 7 (Sat 30th June): Depart.

Airfare is not included in the tour price.

Price is based on one solo traveler per room. If you have a travel buddy, or want a room share your price will look very different. Plus if you combine both these tours you are in for a HUGE price slashing! Please call to get a quote based on YOUR plans. CALL NOW for the best discounts.