Santa Fe Indian Market Native Costume Contest
Jai P’o Havier of Santa Clara Pueblo and Pojoaque Pueblo, dressed as a deer dancer
Jai P’o Havier as a deer dancer, is the center of attention for these Santa Fe Indian Market visitors prior to the Native Costume Contest judging.
Jingle dress detail (above) • Douglas Schofield (below)
Story and photos by Bob Eckert
There is always plenty of drama when the Best of Show judging occurs at the Santa Fe Indian Market Native Costume Contest.
Costumes range from exotic, contemporary creations modeled by stunning models (above) to the more traditional.
All the first place winners from the various categories lined up on the Santa Fe Plaza stage and awaited the judging patiently. Jai P’o Havier (left), of Santa Clara Pueblo and Pojoaque Pueblo, dressed as a deer dancer, moved forward and back as he waited, as a wild deer might if it were expected to stand still in line. Havier was completely into his persona as a deer dancer. It was as if one was watching a Pablita Velarde painting of a Santa Clara Pueblo deer dance and seeing one of the young dancers come to life.
“Since his birth, well actually before his birth,” said Jai P’o’s father, Jordan, when asked how old Jai P’o was when he started dancing. “He was always kicking around inside his mother before he was born. My father, father-in-law and myself would play drums and sing to him, much like people read to the unborn, and when we would drum and sing, his legs would kick inside his mother. When we stopped, his legs would stop, and then start up again with the drumming and singing.”
Jordan said even before Jai P’o could walk, when music would play, his legs would move and his feet would tap to the sounds.
Regarding Jai P’s apparent immersion into his persona as a deer, Jordan, who is also a dancer, said, “A lot of these dances we do, we take on the character. It’s doing it for the creator. You put your heart into it and it becomes part of you.”
Jai P’o started appearing at the Indian Market when he was one year old and was awarded Best of Show when he was two years old and wore Rain Dancer regalia.
He’s performed as a hoop dancer in New Orleans and has also performed the Buffalo Dance at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York.
Jordan said he and his wife wanted Jai P’o to be a dancer but never pressured their son into performing.
“It’s part of who we are as a Pueblo. He loves to do it,” Jordan said, as he looked proudly at Jai P’o who was being photographed after the awards ceremony.
Jai P’o’s headdress was made by his father and grandfather. The yucca represented power and strength. Skunks around his ankles were to ward off evil spirits.
Coming in behind Jai P’o in the boys’ category was Cash Nelso who was adorned with a marvelous and delicate fan-like headdress.
Having only one entry for the men’s traditional category, the first and second place award money went to traditional Fancy Dance dancer, Douglas Schofield, and after seeing his elaborate dance outfit and his energetic performance, one had to agree that he was well suited for both first and second place. If you are familiar with the energy that goes into breakdancing performances, you would have appreciated the energy that Schofield put into his dancer performance on the Santa Fe stage. He started slowly, but as the drummer built up his tempo and speed, Schofield turned into what one observer said looked like a “Whirling Dervish.” (Check out this YouTube video of Schofield in action)
Sho Sho Esquiro, a Kaska Kene and Cree fashion designer, took first place in the contemporary Native clothing category. Her two models looked sophisticated but not over-the-top, with a touch of mystery added to one model with the addition of a facial net.
Loren Aragon, of Acoma Pueblo, had two elegant gowns on two models. One, which he called “Cascade” was a long flowing dress that referenced the importance of rain in the southwest. His second dress, titled “Lighting,” featured a tight bodice that flowed and expanded into a mermaid style bottom giving the dress a very formal yet festive look.
Two sisters from Canada came dressed in Jingle dresses (left). The Jingle dress is a women’s pow wow dance costume. The dress includes ornamentation with multiple rows of metal cones which create a jingling sound as the dancer moves. Contemporary jingle dresses, introduced in the 1980s, are made from multi-coloured fabric decorated with tin jingles, originally made from lids of chewing tobacco cans, but now frequently constructed of other metals. The jingle count on a child’s dress is about 100 to 130 or 140, and for a woman’s size the amount varies depending on the design of the dress.
Although the various fashions and costumes are intriguing, and some of the contemporary pieces edgy, the real draw of the Native Clothing Contest seemed to be the younger contestants. There were some that seemed comfortable with the idea until faced with the actuality of going onstage before hundreds of people. There were other, veterans like Presley Nelson and Jai P’o, who have been showing up for a number of years and take all the hubbub in stride.
It’s a fun event to attend even if you’re not a regular attendee of the Indian Market. You might want to put it on your calendar for next year.
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