Demi Potts swings her arms, her pink shawl sweeping the air and her feet flying to the rapid beat of the drum during her performance of the Fancy Shawl Dance at one of the world’s biggest powwows.
“Like my mom always said, fly like you’re a butterfly,” said Potts, 12, a member of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation of Whitecourt, Alta., about 180 kilometers northwest of Edmonton. .
The advice is particularly well suited to a dance that represents the opening of a cocoon to the emergence of a butterfly.
At the Gathering of Nations powwow, held April 28-30 in Albuquerque, NM, Potts also emerged – as the winner of the Junior Girls Fancy Shawl contest against about 30 other girls ages seven to 12. years.
“I’m very happy and proud of myself,” Potts told CBC. Edmonton AM Wednesday.
Approximately 3,000 participants, representing more than 750 nations from the United States and Canada, competed while tens of thousands of spectators attended performances, competitions, arts and crafts vendors, food and at badge parades.
This was the first in-person event since 2019. Due to the pandemic, the Gathering of Nations was held online for 2020 and 2021.
Potts said she was nervous at first about performing in front of such large crowds.
“But I got used to it,” said Potts, who has been dancing since she was three. “Like I was really excited to be there.”
Potts’ mother, Claudette Pastion, said it was a proud moment to watch her daughter dance in front of thousands of spectators.
“It’s very overwhelming to watch and it’s uplifting,” she said.
Pastion knew early on that his daughter had the spirit of a dancer. Potts had tried different styles before settling on a fancy shawl, a quick dance that requires more athleticism, Pastion said.
“It’s his gift.”
7:0012-year-old girl from Whitecourt wins big at New Mexico powwow
Pastion does everything she can to support her daughter, including spending hours creating the badges.
“Waiting for the right colors, the right design just doesn’t come to you,” she said. “It takes time, patience and prayer and ultimately it takes vision.”
Pastion said being at the powwow, surrounded by friends and seeing the energy of nations coming together, was “an uplifting and beautiful feeling”.