SHIPROCK — A mixture of skill and experience was on display Saturday during the intertribal dance at the Jimmie K. King Sr. Memorial Powwow Arena during the Northern Navajo Nation Fair.

Among the mix was Kerri Martin, 3, who bounced to the drum and moved her bright orange shawl in the air like a butterfly. Martin, from Montezuma Creek, Utah, also displayed her fancy shawl skills during the tiny tots division.

That style of mimicking a butterfly in flight was one of the reasons Martin started dancing, said her mother, Toni Dee.

Another reason is that it is family tradition.

Dee also dances fancy shawl, as did her mother and grandmother, so naturally Martin learned the art of the dance.

Southern Style performs during the Northern Navajo Nation Fair powwow on Saturday in Shiprock.
Southern Style performs during the Northern Navajo Nation Fair powwow on Saturday in Shiprock. (Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times)

"It's something we pass along in the family," Dee said.

Before the tiny dancers took to the arena floor, master of ceremonies Clint V. Frank from Saskatchewan, Canada, explained that the tiny tots division usually starts a powwow because the children represent life and the future.

Once Smoke Stack, the drum group singing during the tiny tots division, hit the first beat, the children began moving -- some quickly, some cautiously and some holding a parent's hand -- but they were living in the moment.

"Good show there, children," Frank said before asking them to line up to receive $2 for participating.

"Everyone is a winner in tiny tots," Frank said. "It's to show appreciation for them. They're all winners."

As the afternoon continued, Anhinga Benally, 5, and her mother, Patricia Benally, both of Farmington, were preparing for Anhinga's turn in the girls' jingle dance.

"It's a mother-daughter weekend. This is our getaway, this is our bonding," said Patricia Benally.

Patricia Benally, who dances fancy shawl, watched from the side as her daughter showed the judges her fancy footwork during the first round of competition.

"I'm teaching her the ways of the powwow circle and the way of life," Patricia Benally said.

For Danielle Werito, powwow is not about competing for money but a way to pray for her family.

The 14-year-old from Shiprock said she danced to pray for her brother as he recovers from a leg injury that he sustained while playing football.

"For me, it's not about competition," she said. "Everybody else thinks it's about fashion and about the money they are dancing for, but for me, it's about healing people."

Before any of the competition events got underway, an honor song was done for Oglala Lakota Nation President Bryan Brewer Sr., who wore the yellow warbonnet presented to him by tribal elders, and was joined by Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize.

Throughout the years, powwow has become part of life on the Navajo Nation, and Brewer enjoyed seeing the cultures meet while watching a portion of the dance.

"We're all dressed alike now. Your men dress like our men and the women, too. We're all dressed the same," he said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.