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Ho-Chunk Powwows and the Politics of Tradition

Grant Arndt

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 06/2016
Pages: 376
Subject: Social Science
eBook ISBN: 9780803290341


Ho-Chunk powwows are the oldest powwows in the Midwest and among the oldest in the nation, beginning in 1902 outside Black River Falls in west-central Wisconsin. Grant Arndt examines Wisconsin Ho-Chunk powwow traditions and the meanings of cultural performances and rituals in the wake of North American settler colonialism. As early as 1908 the Ho-Chunk people began to experiment with the commercial potential of the powwows by charging white spectators an admission fee. During the 1940s the Ho-Chunk people decided to de-commercialize their powwows and rededicate dancing culture to honor their soldiers and veterans. Powwows today exist within, on the one hand, a wider commercialization of and conflict between intertribal "dance contests" and, on the other, efforts to emphasize traditional powwow culture through a focus on community values such as veteran recognition, warrior songs, and gift exchange. In Ho-Chunk Powwows and the Politics of Tradition Arndt shows that over the past two centuries the dynamism of powwows within Ho-Chunk life has changed greatly, as has the balance of tradition and modernity within community life. His book is a groundbreaking study of powwow culture that investigates how the Ho-Chunk people create cultural value through their public ceremonial performances, the significance that dance culture provides for the acquisition of power and recognition inside and outside their communities, and how the Ho-Chunk people generate concepts of the self and their society through dancing.  


Grant Arndt is an associate professor of anthropology and American Indian studies at Iowa State University and coeditor of Native Chicago.  


"A fine work and a welcome addition to the literature. Arndt elaborates nuanced meanings of Ho-Chunk powwows in historical and cultural context, and just as important, he does much to uncover the more complex workings and dynamics of powwows today."—Luke Eric Lassiter, author of The Power of Kiowa Song: A Collaborative Ethnography

"In this important new work, Grant Arndt reminds us that the powwow is more than dancing. It is a gathering with deep connections to widely shared values and practices that affirm the continuing vitality of Ho-Chunk identity and culture."—Clyde Ellis, author of A Dancing People: Powwow Culture on the Southern Plains