New Native Nation Tips for Dancers: Heat

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Tips for Powwow Dancers in Summer Heat
by Shelley Garrett Smith

Although most powwows are held in the summer, most dancers' regalia is what was traditionally winter wear. This causes problems because dancers are often over-heated before they ever get into the dance circle to exert themselves. I saw more than one dancer collapse from the heat over the years and one day it happened to me.

Many powwow organizers try to provide cold drinks somewhere nearby and twice I have seen them handing out battery-powered fans to registered dancers. This service doesn't help if dancers do not partake of it and occasionally there are holes in this service. Sometimes, it is not free and dancers do not all have the money with them to keep buying needed drinks or it is provided only for those registered for competition. More than once I have even seen dancers with a certain appearance denied this service which was then provided for other dancers who looked different; a result of stereotyping and bias at work within the community. More often, too few dancers are made aware of it or supplies run out too early. Once in awhile, there is no budget for providing this service at all or it is over-looked.

So, dancers may need to look out for themselves:

*Bring your own generous supply of drinks and ice.

*It might be good to take a tip from city joggers and carry your own water bottle.

*Wear or carry a bandanna you can soak in water or wrap a piece of ice in.

*Keep a mister or a battery-powered fan with you.

*Eat soups and stews during the hours you are planning to dance and save the frybread and tacos for other times.

*Keep a little salt or a portable and non-perishable salty food, such as a few salted peanuts, with you to nibble throughout the day.

*Do not wear your hair loose in the heat, it will only stick to your sweat and make you more miserable. Now is the time for frenchbraids, traditional buns, and head wraps. Never use hairspray or gel unless you also wear a cloth sweat band to soak it up before the contaminated sweat runs into your eyes.

*Leave off large chokers, heavy breastplates, and large bracelet or gauntlets if at all possible. Breastplates made from plastic beads are much lighter weight and easier to bear in the heat. Those with allergies to certain metals will find that sweat adds to their discomfort, so back metal jewelry with cloth or leave it off entirely.

*Stay in the shade as much as you can.

*When you are in competition you are required to be much more active in the dance circle and to dance more frequently. To keep your body heat down walk to the beat during intertribals, rather than doing a traditional dance and adding to your exertion.

*Take a small step away from strict tradition and make regalia from more-lightweight materials or modify styles to allow more air to flow around the body.

*Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and act immediately if you feel them coming on.

     Heat exhaustion

        * paleness         * cool, moist skin         * extreme sweating         * feels faint, weak or has collapsed         * headache and/or nausea

     Heat stroke

          * flushed, reddened skin           * hot, dry skin           * dizziness, confusion, or unconsciousness           * feeling of breathlessness

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