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Frequently Asked Questions about the Wacipi

Wacipi

Wacipi

What is a Wacipi? Dancers, singers, and visitors from across the country will gather at the SMSC Annual Wacipi for a weekend of dancing, singing, visiting, and shopping in August. Wacipi is the Dakota word for pow wow.

How much is admission? Admission is $5 for the entire weekend and includes a commemorative button and Wacipi Program. Admission is free to elders 60 and older and children 10 and under. Parking is free. All dancers must have a Wacipi button.

Who can attend? The general public is invited to attend. Dancers in regalia can register to dance and participate in the dance contests. Twelve invited drums will provide the songs.

Where is the Wacipi? The SMSC Wacipi Grounds are located just north of Mystic Lake Casino and south of County Road 42 between County Road 83 and County Road 17 (Marschall Road). The address is 3212 Dakotah Parkway, Shakopee, Minnesota 55372.

When is the dancing? Grand Entries will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, and 1:00 p.m. on Sunday with contest dancing by dance category following each Grand Entry.

Are you having fireworks? Yes, on the Wacipi grounds Saturday at 10:00 p.m.

Is there a church service this year? A non-denominational church service is held on Sunday at 10:00 a.m. at nearby Tiowakan Spiritual Center.

When is flag raising? Flag raising is held at 9:00 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

Where do we park? The SMSC Wacipi Grounds has ample parking. Golf carts are available at no charge to transport guests from the parking lot to the grounds. Please give priority to elderly guests and those who may need extra assistance, such as those with small children.

What is Grand Entry? At the Grand Entry the first to enter the Arena are veterans carrying the Eagle Feather Staff and national, state, tribal, and veterans’ flags. Then visiting dignitaries and royalty enter. They are followed by all the dancers in a continuous line by category ultimately forming a large circle which fills the inside the Arena.

Why does each Grand Entry begin with a prayer? As is customary, all Dakota gatherings begin with a prayer to the Creator.

What are royalty? Royalty are youths who have been selected competitively to represent a specific Wacipi. They usually serve a one-year term in which they travel to Wacipi's around the country representing their particular Wacipi. They represent all that is good in the youth of today. The SMSC selected royalty for the first time at a traditional Wacipi in January 2014. These four dancers (Brave, Junior Brave, Princess, and Junior Princess) represent the SMSC at other Wacipi’s.

Why do we stand during prayers and honor songs? It is a sign of respect. If you are elderly or have a medical condition, it is fine for you to sit if you need to. During prayers, please show respect by refraining from talking or smoking and please remove your hat or cap.

What do the Arena Directors do? They are responsible for keeping everything in the Arena running smoothly. They line up the dancers for Grand Entry, set up the dance categories, select judges, and generally manage the inner workings of the Wacipi. Their role is very important and is respected.

What do the Masters of Ceremonies do? Their responsibility is to keep the dancers, singers, and crowd informed. They will explain the dance styles, tell jokes and anecdotes about dancers and staff, and generally keep the action moving. They will call the dance categories and announce the winners. They are an important part of the Wacipi.

Why are elders honored? Elders are held in high esteem in the Dakota culture. They have lived their lives, learning along the way, and gladly share their wisdom and insight with others. We have much to learn from our elders. Dancers who are elders are especially looked after and honored. Elders are invited to eat first at the dining tent.

What is an Honor Song? An Honor Song is sung for an individual who has passed into the Spirit World, graduated from school, received an accolade, or perhaps received an Indian name. Everyone is invited to come and pay their respects by gently shaking the hands of the family of the one honored and then joining the line behind them to finish the dance around the Arena.

What is special about the Arena? The Arena contains a grassy area in the middle which is sacred land, blessed for the gathering. Prayers have been said, and tobacco has been offered to the Creator. This is not an area where children are invited to play. Treat this area like a church. There is no smoking in the dance area inside the Arena. Also, this is not an area for the public to cut across or use as a short cut. Do not walk across the Arena or allow your children to run in the Arena. Do not eat or drink while dancing or during prayers or Honor Songs. If it is very, very hot, then small water bottles are allowed in the Arena. In the very middle of the Arena are flag poles and holders for Eagle Feather Staffs.

What is the Eagle Feather/Fallen Warrior Ceremony? If an Eagle Feather falls to the ground, there is a special ceremony for veterans to retrieve the Fallen Warrior. We have the highest respect for the Eagle, the Wambdi. The Eagle flies higher than any other being and carries prayers to the Creator. Possession of Eagle Feathers is an honor; they are usually received as a gift from a relative, spiritual teacher, or from the Eagle himself. Please, no photographs during this ceremony.

What is a Giveaway? A giveaway is a tradition dating back in history but continuing today. When someone has been honored or has had a major accomplishment in their life, that person’s family will have a Giveaway. The Master of Ceremony announces the purpose of the Giveaway and then gifts are given to the people. Families accumulate items for a Giveaway for a year. Items include simple everyday goods like towels, cups, candy, and laundry baskets. Blankets and special gifts like star quilts are given to individuals who have helped the family. Visitors are sometimes given small gifts. It is considered impolite to refuse a gift if given. It is generally followed by a Wopida (thank you) song and dance where everyone who has received a gift is invited to participate in the round dance.

What is a Naming Ceremony? Families sometimes give a spiritual or “Indian” name to an individual. A spiritual leader or respected elder performs this ceremony and usually a Giveaway and Honor Song follow. Photographs are not permitted.

What is an Intertribal? An intertribal is a dance where dancers in regalia are joined by friends and relatives not necessarily in regalia to dance together in the arena. All tribes, all dance styles, and all ages are welcome.

What is the Drum Group Competition? The Drum Group Competition is a fun closing to the weekend’s festivities and a way for drum groups to earn some extra spending money while the results from the contests are being tabulated. The competition may be a humorous spoof of Wacipi activities or related to a popular movie or television show or even children’s games. The Wacipi Committee generally keeps the competition a secret until it is announced moments before the contest begins. Each year is something different. In previous years the competition has included a Team Dance where male members from each drum borrowed regalia from dancers and competed in a Team Dance. Another option was a competition where lead singers started a song without the drum and then their drum group had to complete the song without them. Singing karaoke songs and wheelbarrow and chariot races have also been popular with the crowd. The audience usually decides the winners of these events by their applause.

Is seating provided? Yes. In recent years additional seating was added in the form of bleachers, some of which are covered.

Mall of America Dance Exhibition

What is the Mall of America Dance Exhibition? Visitors to Mall of America will have the opportunity to watch Native American singers and dancers perform at a dance exhibition in the Rotunda, as a preview to the annual SMSC Wacipi held on the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Wacipi Grounds in Shakopee, Minnesota. Dancers perform a variety of dance styles to the live songs from traditional drum groups.

What time are the dance sessions? 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Why do you have the dance exhibition at the Mall of America? There are several reasons we hold the dance exhibition. First, it allows us the opportunity to share an important aspect of our culture with Mall visitors who may not have any other opportunity to experience the traditions and culture associated with a Wacipi. Also, as a preview to the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Wacipi, the dance exhibition may inspire local residents and tourists to attend the Wacipi. Interested parties can purchase Wacipi buttons at the Mystic Lake Store, a retail store at the Mall of America just off the Sears Court which the SMSC owns and operates. There guests can also purchase tickets to concerts and events through Ticketmaster, book hotel rooms, and get information about the SMSC and Indian Gaming in Minnesota. Free bus rides to Mystic Lake Casino Hotel are also available through the store, including during the Wacipi.

How many drums will there be? Two. There will be a Northern Drum and a Southern Drum.

How many dancers will there be? There will be several dancers in each category for a total of about 70 dancers.

Will there be a Master of Ceremonies? Yes, a Master of Ceremonies will explain what is happening during the dance exhibition.

Can anyone participate as a dancer at the Mall of America Exhibition? Unfortunately, no. Due to the limited space available to us in the rotunda, we must limit participation to a small number of invited dancers from each category and invited drums only. Everyone is invited to participate in the round dance at the end of each session.

What is a round dance? The dance exhibition at the Mall of America features a round dance where guests are invited come into the rotunda and join the dancers. It is a social dance for all ages and genders to dance together. A round dance is performed in a circle moving clockwise, sometimes holding hands. In other circumstances a round dance is often done after a Giveaway or Honor Song.

Why are flags carried in by veterans to start and finish the exhibition? During the Grand Entry the first to enter the Arena are veterans carrying the Eagle Feather Staff and national, state, tribal, and veterans’ flags. The Eagle Feather Staff is the most important flag because it represents all Native Americans. It contains Eagle feathers, beadwork, and buffalo fur, and is secured at the center of the Arena.

What is the Veterans’ Program? In a special event at 3:30 p.m., there will be a program honoring veterans. During this special time, the story of Native Americans and their willingness to serve in the United States military will be featured, though all veterans will be invited to participate. The Sisseton Wahpeton Vietnam Veterans will participate along with SMSC Community member and Wacipi Chairman Glynn A. Crooks.

Why are veterans honored so prominently? Traditionally, the Dakota honored warriors who fought to protect the people and their way of life. As the United States was formed, warriors continued that fight which today is in the form of serving in the United States Armed Services. Indian people serve in the Armed Forces at the highest rate of any ethnic group in this country. Lakota and Navajo Codetalkers have been recognized in recent years for their contributions during World War II. The willingness of veterans to serve to protect the people of this continent is held in high regard by all Indian people. We are honored to have Veterans at our Wacipi and other events, and we thank them for their service. Veterans are greatly esteemed not only for their willingness to serve and protect others, but also for their willingness to offer their lives to keep others safe.

What if I have more questions, who can I contact? For more information you can visit www.smscwacipi.org, the Wacipi Facebook page, or contact info@shakopeedakota.org.

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