Almost as soon as Sebastian Abbott could walk, he started powwow dancing.
Now at 17, he’s been at it most of his life.
He’ll be highly visible at the Spirit of the People Powwow, July 28-30, when he comes out in the Grand Entry wearing the beautiful traditional regalia passed on to him by his father Gary Abbott, arena director for the powwow event at Tzeachten Sports Field.
“The beadwork is my family crest,” Sebastian said with pride about the bottom apron of his regalia.
The theme of this year’s event is “Honouring Our Youth,” and Sebastian says it’s crucial to keep youth involved and engaged in the traditional events like powwows.
“It’s important because they’re the next generation.”
Sebastian’s brother, Alex, took his first powwow steps as a child as well, with Chicken Dance first, then Fancy Dance and now Grass Dance.
Fancy dancers could be a dying breed, Sebastian fears.
“Every time I go to a powwow, I hardly see any Fancy dancers,” he said. “I believe it’s because the youth aren’t getting out to the powwows the way they used to.”
That could spell an “end of an era” if interest in the cultural tradition keeps dwindling.
Sebastian is trying fiercely to keep it alive by putting on a men’s Fancy Dance “special” at the powwow this year, meaning he’ll be teaching the powerful dance, but he’ll also help with event security, vendors and more.
He started out on the powwow trail as a Chicken dancer, which features one feather bustle, but now he’s advanced to the Men’s Fancy category wearing a double-bustle.
“I know all the dances,” he said. “I pay attention to the moves.”
Fancy dancers are especially exciting to watch because the moves mimic the spinning action of a powerful tornado, characteristic of those weather events that touch down in the region the dance originated from, which is Oklahoma.
The difference between Chicken dancing and Fancy dancing?
While the one-bustle Chicken dance features a medium tempo, the Fancy dancers with their double-bustle feathers flying, are known for their “high energy and agility” moving to a much faster beat.
What should spectators expect at a powwow?
“It’s a real eye-opener. They’ll see so many colours mixed together.”