Clark County Museum feature exhibit on Native American powwows, other culture

Native American culture and the spirit of the contemporary powwow are the subjects of the newest exhibit at the Clark County Museum.

The exhibit, "What Continues the Dream: Contemporary Arts and Crafts from the Powwow Tradition," is on loan from the Nevada Arts Council’s Nevada Touring Initiative and is scheduled to run until May 6 at the museum, 1830 S. Boulder Highway.

According to the Nevada Arts Council, the term powwow originally was associated with shamans or priests who had powerful dreams that provided spiritual guidance. Festivals and gathers also were associated with these elders, and over time, the term broadened to also mean "get-together."

Now, powwows are events that feature Native American crafts, music, dance and celebration.

"Today, it is really an expression of their culture," said Dawna Joliff, exhibit curator.

Photos, clothing, ceremonial items and history from the northern and southern Paiute tribes show the evolution of the powwow and the influences that have shaped it.

The National Arts Council wanted the exhibit, which had been primarily featured in Northern Nevada, to venture to the southern region of the state.

Before its arrival at the Clark County Museum, Joliff said the exhibit was at the West Charleston Library, 6301 W. Charleston Blvd., in November and December.

But the Clark County Museum has made the exhibit its own.

Joliff said that in addition to the traveling exhibit, the museum has secured other items to enhance the materials it was provided.

"This is truly the only place you would see the exhibit like this," Joliff said.

Artwork recognizes Native American artists such as Wayne A. Burke, Cassandra Leigh Darrough and Gordon Gibson. Also featured are folk art objects from John Bear, Dean Barlese and Steven Mike.

A collection of crowns from the Powwow Princess competition also is in the exhibit. According to the Nevada Arts Council, at most powwows, a princess is crowned to serve as an ambassador for her community or tribe at other powwows throughout the year.

"Some of the crowns are beaded," Joliff said. "But some are made with silver and turquoise."

While walking through the exhibit, people can see the vibrant colors and beadwork on clothing such as the jingle dresses, which are worn for certain dances. Joliff said the origin of the jingle dress is derived from a medicine man in the early 1900s who had a dream in which he heard this sound. The dream served as his muse to create a dress. Joliff, who has seen these dresses in action, said the sound from those dresses during a dance is ineffable.

"You just have to hear it to understand," Joliff said.

The trend of wearing these dresses died in the late ’60s.

"But now they are coming back with great fervor," Joliff said.

Other items on display include feathers, a man’s dance bustle worn in the Fancy Dance, and clothing with sequined studs, showing the changing trends of Native American culture that combines elements of the past with styles of the future.

Overhead, while people read and take in the Native American spirit, are the sounds and music from powwows such as Gathering of Nations, one of the largest powwows.

Joliff has traveled the powwow circuit to discover the latest trends, which helped her assemble the elements of the traveling exhibit and the donated items.

Visitors can see the exhibit from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for seniors and children.

Along with the exhibit, the museum is planning to host two demonstrations. The first, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 17, is to feature performances from powwow dancers. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 14, the museum is planning a demonstration of powwow arts and crafts.

After the exhibit leaves, it is slated to go to the Marjorie Barrick Museum at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Joliff said.

For more information, call 455-7955.

Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at or 387-5201.

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