SHERIDAN — The sound of Northern Cheyenne flute music drifted over the green lawn of the Sheridan Inn, holding the powwow audience in rapt silence in a scene perhaps reminiscent of Indian dances staged here 100 years ago.
When the flute player and powwow emcee Jay Old Mouse finished the tune, he called for men seated around a rawhide drum to begin another song. Dancers filed onto the lawn wearing regalia decorated with ribbons, feathers, and beads as they stepped in rhythm with drums and high throated singing.
Many of the dancers were young — ranging from toddlers to teenagers and young adults.
For the second year running, the Sheridan Inn hosted the First People’s Powwow last week as part of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo celebrations. Members of the Crow, Northern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho, Oglala Lakota and other tribes participated in dances throughout the week.
The Inn also hosted the second Miss Indian America Reunion luncheon on Thursday. The event reintroduced Sheridan to past winners of the pageant, which was staged here as part of All-American Indian Days from 1953 to 1984.
The Crow tribe also came out in force for the rodeo parade Friday, with hundreds of dancers riding flatbeds in full regalia, and a color guard of four horse-mounted veterans in traditional clothing, carrying American flags.
Together the events continued a recent resurgence in Native American activity at the Sheridan WYO Rodeo. More than 100 years ago, the Sheridan Inn played host to tribal dancers from Montana reservations to create a “Wild West” atmosphere to entertain residents and tourists arriving on the Burlington railroad.
That appeal endures today, where one powwow audience member in the crowded stands remarked that organizers will need more bleachers next year.