MIDWAY — The sound of ringing filled the air as about 100 Native American dancers entered a grassy arena at Soldier Hollow, bells tied to many of their hand-crafted traditional clothes.
A growing crowd of more than 200 people stood to attention in the area surrounding the arena. Some spectators pulled their hats off their heads as the Grand Procession made its way into the arena on the sunny Sunday afternoon. In addition to the procession many dancers would compete throughout the day. They were easily visible because of the numbered bibs pinned to their authentic clothing.
After the procession, Emerson Bills, a dancer from the Dine' tribe, offered a prayer in his native language. On a day that is considered by many to be a Sabbath, Bills acknowledged that Native Americans do not have a date for prayers and church; for them, every day is one of prayer and gratitude.
Before his prayer, he asked that the spectators and dancers pray for their families, for those serving in the armed forces and for the elders who are living alone or in nursing homes.
"Respect the circle. Take care of your feathers. Honor each other," he said.
The Grand Procession was part of the three-day 2014 Heber Valley Pow-Wow where Native Americans from 20 tribes across the West and into Canada gathered to share music, dancing and food.
Dylan Trotter, 18 months, donned the moccasins his family bought for him at the Pow-Wow.
"Dylan absolutely loves Native American music," his father Mose Trotter explained.
Teepees and vendor booths sat just beyond the arena. Spectators and dancers perused the shops containing Native American pottery, crafts and instruments as well as Navajo Tacos and slushee drinks.
Early in the afternoon, one dancer in traditional garb carried a slushee drink into the arena before handing it off to a friend in a drum circle. He and others milled about waiting for the Grand Procession to begin.
Behind the drum circle, world-renowned violinist and flutist Arvel Bird performed, blending Celtic and Native American sounds in his music.
While the nations have distinct traditions and differences, the Pow-Wow is a chance for them to come together and together thank their Creator for what they have.
Each tribe or nation wore hand-crafted clothes, some with feather head pieces, others embroidered with shells and beadwork. Tribes can often be distinguished by the colors they wear. For instance, the Sioux wear black or blue to represent life's trials and hardships, red as a symbol of the red road belief shared by many Native Americans, white to indicate purity and yellow to illustrate that life begins anew each day.
Bills saw the dancing as opportunities for the nations to become unified, heal and express thanks.
"We all need to unite and work together," he prayed in Dine'. "We (are) thankful no matter where we are at."