Topeka Journals

Dancing, Gambling and American Indians

A September 2000 trip to Topeka by Casual Tourist

Harrahs Prairie Band Casino Photo, Topeka, Kansas More Photos
Quote: A casino visit followed by an authentic Native American Pow Wow -- what a day, despite the heat.

Dancing, Gambling and American Indians

Overview

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The Pow Wow was the highlight of our trip to Topeka. Most interesting of all were the costumes and a chance to have preconceived notions of what a pow wow was corrected.

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Harrah's Prairie Band Casino offers a dining buffet with an international flavor. There are stations for American, Italian and Chinese dishes, as well as a salad and dessert bar. The dining atmosphere is pleasant -- how could it be otherwise at a casino, where they pump in fresh oxygen, etc. to help you forget the time.

The quality of the food was good and the staff was quite attentive even though the dining was buffet style.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 8, 2000

Harrah's Prairie Band Casino
12305 150th Road
Topeka, Kansas 66509
(785) 966-7777

Harrah's Prairie Band Casino

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Attraction

Harrah's Prairie Band Casino Photo, Topeka, Kansas
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The casino offers a very stimulating environment -- slightly subdued lighting, with lit slot machines positioned throughout the large room. The sounds of beeps and ching, ching, ching of coins dropping into metal trays adds to the excitement.

The staff is attentive, making sure that free beverages such as pop or tea are served wherever you are so that you need not leave your favorite game in search of a drink.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 8, 2000

Harrah's Prairie Band Casino
12305 150th Road
Topeka, Kansas 66509
(785) 966-7777

10th Annual Intertribal Pow Wow

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Attraction

10th Annual Intertribal Pow Wow Photo, Topeka, Kansas
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Authentic Native American Pow Wows are held in Topeka several times a year. Speaking for myself, I went to the pow wow with several preconceived notions. I expected to find teepees set up around the park and Native Americans in full Indian dress. Images abounded in my mind of Hollywood scenes with Natives dancing around a large bonfire in a circle of teepees. This was not what I found, however. There was one teepee in a camping area nearby, but the majority of tents were standard tents that most of us use for camping or outdoor shelters. As far as 'authentic' Native American dress, there were several individuals wearing what my mind judged to be authentic costumes. ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 8, 2000

10th Annual Intertribal Pow Wow
Lake Shawnee
Topeka, Kansas

Gourd Society Photo, Topeka, Kansas
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The gourd dancing lasted about an hour and included some ceremonial proceedings. Some of the events were a little difficult to follow as this was the first Pow Wow I've attended, but I believe that one of the ceremonies was to welcome a new member into the Gourd Society. The new member was dressed in black and wore a black cowboy hat. It seems that one of the traditions Native Americans still practice is one of honoring certain people. After the new member was given a rattle by Charles Chibitty, the group began a walk/dance around the circle. Others from the tribes then passed in front of the first line of people, which included the new member, shook hands with them and then added themselves...Read More

Colorful Costumes

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Story/Tip

Powwow In Topeka Photo, Topeka, Kansas
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There were numerous colorful costumes in evidence and the number grew as the evening wore on. The men as well as the women donned their regalia and joined the dancing. A local television news reporter and photographer from channel 49 were there to document the event. They conducted interviews with some of the more colorfully dressed individuals.

During the gourd dancing, women danced behind their men and stayed in groups together.

Visit to Harrah's Prairie Band Casino

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Story/Tip

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Our trip to the casino was not originally on our agenda, but became a fun part of our day because of the extreme heat. Our desination in Topeka was Shawnee Lake where a Native American Pow Wow was being held. We arrived in Topeka sometime around 12 p.m. and found the Pow Wow location beside Shawnee Lake. Dancing was scheduled for the afternoon, but because of the extreme temperatures (in excess of 105 degrees), was postponed until 5:00. With some time on our hands we decided to drive to the casino and have lunch and do a little gambling. Harrah's Prairie Band Casino is located on Reservation Land and is owned by the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. It's a well run operation an...Read More

The Gourd Dance

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Story/Tip

Gourd Dance Photo, Topeka, Kansas
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Once the ceremonial drum was set up in the center of the sacred circle, the program began with a number of gourd dances.

According to the official program, only gourd dancers can dance during the gourd dance. The dancing itself is very simple, with the men standing in place and lifting their heels to the beat of the drum while they shake their rattles or gourds. The dances were begun by the Head Gourd Dancer, in this case a Charles Chibitty.

As you can see from the photos, the dress for the gourd dance was not elaborate. Some of it was traditional and some modern-day, every-day clothing.
Topeka Powwow Photo, Topeka, Kansas
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My husband and I were both fascinated by one older gentleman and looked him up at his tent during a break in the festivities. This man was Charles Chibitty, the Head Gourd Dancer. He was full of conversation, and quite happy to visit with us until his name was called over the P.A. system.

Mr. Chibitty is a Comanche born in Oklahoma in 1921. He was an active participant in WWII and had many medals to wear on his sash.

Topeka Powwow Photo, Topeka, Kansas
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When the Gourd Dancing was brought to a close, a short break was given to prepare for the Grand Entrance Ceremony. We watched as participants scurried around gathering flags and putting the finishing touches on their costumes.

The Grand Entrance Ceremony was indeed grand. There were probably upwards of 100 participants in the ceremony, children and adults alike. Again, as we'd seen in the Gourd Dancing, costumes varied -- some quite elaborately Native American, some a mixture of traditional and modern day, and some simply modern, every day dress. The ceremony consisted of a march/dance around the sacred circle led by flag bearers and a prayer. It was quite impressive.