June in Cody, Wyoming is a vibrant time. The days are typically pleasant, with nights cool enough for a down jacket and a campfire. June is also Powwow time in Cody. Every third full weekend in June the quiet circle of the Robbie Powwow Grounds unfurls into a whirlwind of dancers during the Annual Plains Indian Museum Powwow. The swishing of the sprinklers halts for a few days and is replaced by the gentle sounds of feathers and fringe, powerful drum beats, and clear voices in song.
The Plains Indian Museum Powwow is entering its 33rd year! After looking into the archives for information on the very first Powwow held in Cody (the year was 1981) I found old photos, programs, and letters chronicling the early days of this event. Two Plains Indian Museum Advisory Board members, Joe Medicine Crow and Arthur Amiotte, attended the first year of the Powwow in Cody, which was held at the Cody High School football field. From their recollections, we know that the stage at that time consisted of a flatbed trailer, and the lone drum group agreed to stay for the event because their vehicle broke down while traveling through Cody. There were only a few dancers and some curious spectators, but the spirit of the Powwow grew into a solid, annual event which now attracts hundreds of participants from tribes and nations around the United States.
On June 27, 1987, the dedication of the Joe Robbie Powwow Grounds took place and the Powwow moved across the street onto Center grounds. The efforts to build the Powwow Grounds were overseen by former director Peter Hassrick, and the late George Horse Capture, who was Curator of the Plains Indian Museum at the time. A July 29, 1992, Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel article about Joe Robbie, former owner of the Miami Dolphins, stated, “The man who built a reputation in the football world as a gruff, hardened, stingy competitor was also a generous friend of the American Indian.” Although parts of the original plans for the grounds and a shade arbor were never finished, dancers and spectators enjoy the cool grass of the arena as they watch the day’s program of ceremony, dancing, and celebration unfold.
Many summers have gone by since the very first Plains Indian Museum Powwow in Cody, and we are fortunate to have both Joe (now 100 years old) and Arthur still with us for the Powwow along with all of the friends who gather with us each year.