The Pow-Wow grounds nestle at the base of Moon Mountain and their reflection mirrors Round Lake in my home town of Inchelium, WA on the Colville Confederated Reservation. On a damp but warm Sunday, May 24th, 2015, two young ladies will trade their crowns for a renewed confidence, wisdom and skill.
The girls have represented the Arrow Lakes Pow-Wow for three days and are now ready to pass their title as 2014- 2015 Miss Arrow Lakes and Little Miss Arrow Lakes. Surena Villegas, an eighth grader and fourteen year old at Inchelium School and Sadie Desautel of Spokane, WA and in the third grade are both Colville Tribal Members. The Arrow Lakes is one of the twelve bands of the confederation originating out of British Columbia, Canada.
I was honored to interview both girls that Saturday, although I’ve known Surena Villegas for many years as Inchelium School Staff, and had the pleasure to meet and visit with Miss Desautel that weekend. Both girls are Jingle Dress dancers. I talked with Hannah Blackcrow, a former Miss Arrow Lakes recipient about its meaning and she told me, “The Jingle Dress Dance is a healing dance. When done the right way, it was dreamt and is healing to those who are sick or hurting. It originally came from Ojibwas people.”
I suppose not only is the jingle dress dance healing to the ill, but also a form of recovery for the girls as they heal from doubt and fear that comes with coming-of-age, recovering with renewed confidence, strength and wisdom.
Let’s find out.
CP: Why do you dance?
SD-Sadie Desautel: It’s fun. My mom (Valerie Quintasket) used to dance. I’ve been dancing since I was three. My mom made my dress too!
CP: What do you like most about being Little Miss Arrow Lakes?
SD: I like the retiring the flags. (After grand entry, the Pow-wow flags are hung up to represent the pow-wow for all to see. Native Veterans carry them in wearing full regalia.)
CP: Serena, what did your year as Miss Arrow Lakes look like?
Serena Villegas: It was a one year reign. It was fun and I’m really happy. We worked hard. To try out for the title of Miss Arrow Lakes, I had to memorize my speech, work on dancing more, practice the jingle dress dance and work with judges. I had to write my speech and put things in order which created more points from the judges. In the speech I introduced myself, what tribe I’m enrolled in, who my family is including grandparents, share my hobbies and how honored I was. I spoke it all is Salish too. I had to look happy without smiling.
CP: What about you, Sadie?
SD: I had to write my speech and memorize it. I practiced for two months!
CP: Do you get to keep your crowns?
SV: I get to keep mine.
SD: I have to pass my crown on. (She looked sad, but knew the rules and accepted them.)
CP: What did you like most during your reign?
SV: I liked to see all the new places and meet new people. Montana was my favorite.
SD: I liked meeting new people.
SV: We (Surena and Sadie) met for the first time in Soap Lake, WA at a yogurt party.
CP: What was the hardest part of your reign?
SV: Getting up early and ready for grand entry. There is a lot to prepare for including dressing and mental preparation because sometimes we have to give a last minute speech. But it’s all boosted my confidence.
SD: Making it on time to the Pow-wows. Sometimes we drive in just in time to get ready for grand entry.
SV: We are gone every weekend to a Pow-Wow from May to September in five different states or more.
CP: Who made your jingle dresses?
SV: Markalene (Blackcrow) made my jingle dress. (Markalene is Surena’s family, mentor and chaperone.)
SD: My sister won her first title as Little Miss Arrow Lakes when she was four years old. She wears my mom’s dress.
CP: Will you try for another title and travel this summer?
SV: It’s sad when we have to give up the crown. But I have a summer job working with the diabetes prevention program for youth workers and won’t get to dance as much, but in the future I plan on trying again for other titles.
CP: How did your reign help with your grades during the school year?
SV: I got better grades. I got more work done knowing I had to or couldn’t dance.
I sat and watched Surena and Sadie dance their final dance and be honored by family. I choked up watching the girls pass on their crowns knowing how they have grown in one year’s time, knowing what dancing means to them, knowing what that crown represents, their family, their tribe. Realizing how it’s changed their lives, I look forward to learning about their future in life and on the Pow-wow road. I wish them the many blessings in their healing journey.