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Shaydee Pretends Eagle

The jingle dress dance is one of many that is held at a powwow, Bismarck High School student Shaydee Pretends Eagle competes.

The dancers make their way out to the floor in order to showcase the unique style in which they dance. Tension builds along with the drums. Not only do they wish to entertain and share some joy with bystanders but to also represent a culture.

Jingle Dress Dancer Shaydee Pretends Eagle is one of the young women that compete in jingle dress dancing in the teen division for powwows.

"The thing about the dancing is that it not only is a form of entertainment but it still has a significant amount of meaning to the Native American culture," Pretends Eagle said.

Powwows are held throughout the year, with them being held every weekend in the summer and then a scattered few in the winter.

"We start at the UND Timeout, which is the second week in April, and from then there is a powwow every weekend, April-September, and then they start to die off in the winter," Pretends Eagle said.

Pretends Eagle and her mother, Carmen Abraham, travel all over North Dakota and a few other states for the chance to let her dance.

"We have made it to Kansas, Wisconsin and Montana so far," Pretends Eagle said. "I want to be able to go to other states too, just for the opportunity to dance with other people."

The powwows are usually a three-day event and start on a Friday going till Sunday.

"They start with a grand entry, where all the dancers come in single file, then we pay respects to the flag, royalty and ancestors," Abraham said.

The jingle dress dance is one competition out of many that contestants are able to compete in during the powwows.

"There is jingle, fancy, grass, southern style and quite a few more," Abraham said. "There are so many unique dances for men and women to compete in."

During the competition the participants all dance at the same time to about two songs. At each powwow there can be from 25 to 60 contestants.

"With five to six judges it can be hard with so many other girls," Pretends Eagle said. "You have to try and catch their attention because they can not watch everyone at the same time."

Judges look for posture, if they are on beat, how they look, if they stop on time and what moves they have.

"It is a lot of footwork and not a lot of arm motion," Pretends Eagle said. "This particular dance is mostly sidestepping, leg power is needed."

Team competitions are the only time when the dances are choreographed beforehand. All of the other dancers come up with their moves when they arrive.

"I think it just came naturally from being out on the powwow trail all the time," Pretends Eagle said. "I have been doing this since I could first walk."

At all of the competitions there are certain regalia, or outfits, that everyone must wear when competing.

"Many different items go into making the entire thing come together," Abraham said. "She starts with her makeup and then I do her hair. She puts on her hair ties, moccasins, cuffs, barrette, earrings, wristbands, feathers and jingle dress."

Abraham makes the jingle dresses from scratch for her daughter and for other people once in a while.

"It is quite the process," Abraham said. "I can only make about 5 to 10 dresses a year."

Along with making dresses at the house, Pretends Eagle does her own beadwork for all of the items that she has to wear.

"My first set of beadwork I started when I was 13 and it took me about two years because I was just too slow and impatient," Pretends Eagle said. "I put it away for about six months then decided to try again."

Pretends Eagle has been participating in the powwows since she was considered a tiny tot, 7 and younger. Now as a teen competitor, the last two years has been going well for her.

"She has been doing so amazing at every one that we have been to," Abraham said. "If she didn't place first, then she at least got in the top five."

There are up to five places in each category and the prizes range from medals, jackets, plaques and money. In the teen group, that Pretends Eagle competes in, the money can range from $300 to $600.

"Most of the time it is money and some people throw in extra to honor loved ones," Abraham said. "There was one weekend where she won $1000, more than when she worked two weeks at Mcdonald's."

Along with the prizes, there is also knowledge that is gained from partaking in the powwows.

"I love dancing," Pretends Eagle said. "Plus, I also gain so much from my culture. At times it is hard to juggle both cultures, going from one to the other in a week. But I wouldn't want to quit either one."