Tiny dancers got their chance to shine Saturday at the fifth annual Kidz Pow Wow.

One-year-old Alex Allen clutched his older sister’s hand and made his way slowly around the large room with the other dancers during the opening group circle dance. They moved in time to loud drumbeats and singing that pierced the usual quiet of the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute. Little Alex seemed lost in wonderment, his eyes wide at the avalanche of sensory input.

Alex’s dad, Leland Allen, watched with a smile. The single father of three had brought his children from their home in Lapwai, Idaho, to attend.

“They dance for fun,” he said, of his children, Alex, Olivia and Lewis. “It makes me feel good to watch them. It makes me feel proud.”

Organizer Cassandra Franklin, of Tamastslikt, sported a neon pink shirt with the words, “5th Annual Kidz Pow Wow.” After each age group danced, she helped award prizes to all who participated in the non-competitive dances. The idea, she said, was to provide a pressure-free venue to allow children, native or non-native up to age 12, to experience powwow. When Alex’s group finished (age 0 through 4), each dancer received a backpack containing something homemade.

Franklin grinned as she watched the dancers, sometimes taking out her phone to shoot video.

“It’s amazing to see them out there,” she said. “They’re so excited. It makes all the stress of planning so worth it.”

Tribal elder Tessie Williams had commenced the gathering with a prayer in which she had lifted up “our precious children.” She watched the powwow wrapped in a Pendleton blanket and nodding her head at the beat produced by the drummers.

“The drummers are wonderful,” she said. “The kids are wonderful.”

Randy Minthorn sat at a table with a microphone, acting as emcee.

He praised the parents and others who had made the gathering a priority.

“We are here supporting our children,” Minthorn said. “This is big medicine to our people. To pass on this knowledge in contemporary times is important.”

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Contact Kathy Aney at kaney@eastoregonian.com or call 541-966-0810.

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