Man's fancy dance contest accentuates the colors of the costume

The swirl of color is mesmerizing as athletic dancers compete in the Man’s Fancy Dance Contest.

You’re invited to join your neighbor’s celebration – and be welcomed, entertained and well-fed.  It’s a quiet little celebration, with only a few hundred of the closest friends and families – and you.  The Twin Buttes Powwow in June is not as well-known as the annual UTTC powwow in September at Bismarck, of the Little Shell Powwow in August at New Town.  But no one tops the hospitality and welcome visitors are shown at Twin Buttes. This year, the annual Twin Buttes Celebration is June 16-18.

The Twin Buttes Powwow Ground is nestled in the hills a few hundred yards from Lake Sakakawea.

The Twin Buttes Powwow Ground is nestled in the hills a few hundred yards from Lake Sakakawea.

Visitors are welcome

Man's fancy dance contest accentuates the colors of the costumeThe intricate beadwork of the dancer’s costumes, the movements that swirl the colors into a spectrum of light are some of the most obvious attractions at any powwow. The Twin Buttes powwow adds to that their legendary open arms of hospitality.

“We welcome everyone. We love to go the extra mile for our guests,” said Jessica Howling Wolf, the president of the Twin Buttes Celebration Committee.   “We’re pretty laid back.  We like to take care of visitors because then when they go home, they’ll tell others the good things we have going on.”

Howling Wolf said often first-time visitors come to the powwow and wonder about the different traditions, costumes, and dances.  They’re encouraged to ask about meanings of events, dances, dresses, and costumes.

Two elders who are veterans are part of the honor guard for the daily flag raising

Patriotism is a major element of the Twin Buttes Powwow. Each morning is a flag raising and a flag song honoring the tribal members who have served the U.S. Military.

 The morning flag raising at 8:00 a.m. is one of the most stirring moments of the 3-day events, a patriotic and memorable ceremony where flag songs, honor generations of those who have served and died. 

What to expect

Some of the most spectacular colors and movements are at the Grand Entries.  They’re at 7:00 p.m. Thursday and Friday.  The Friday Grand Entry starts the dance contest.  Through the weekend, in each category of dancing, judges rate the dancers on a number of elements.  They come from tribal nations from all over the United States to get a shot at the prize money.  “If they don’t win, it’s tough to afford to get to the next powwow,” said Cory Spotted Bear, the Twin Buttes Business Councilman.

The hospitality of the Mandan and Hidatsa people is legendary.  Thomas Jefferson instructed the Corps of Discovery to seek out the Mandan and Hidatsa, and when they did, the indigenous people welcomed the explorer and gave them a home for several months.

That same welcoming spirit greets visitors who come for a couple of hours, an entire day or the weekend.  “We make sure they’re fed and cared for,” Howling Wolf said.  Both days, Saturday the 17th and Sunday the 18th at 6:00 p.m. are community feeds when everyone is invited and encouraged to get in line at the long tables to eat traditional and modern foods. “We don’t want anyone to go away hungry,” she laughed.

Families participate in the Twin Buttes Powwow

The Twin Buttes Powwow is a family event both for visitors and for participants.

Other activities at Twin Buttes Celebration

For 62 years, the Twin Buttes powwow has celebrated the culture.  The powwow grounds were moved to the current location many years ago. Then recently, the arbor was expanded.  Ahead of this year’s celebration, more upgrades are underway. “We see the Twin Buttes Powwow as a homecoming. It’s a rich display of living history,” said Spotted Bear. “We like visitors to come in and experience our heritage that is living today.”

 He said the weekend has more traditional activities and contests such as a horse race and a wellness walk.  The fun and competition expand into the town of Twin Buttes where organizers are planning a softball tournament, a basketball tournament, and a horseshoe match.

The Twin Buttes powwow ground is east of the town of Twin Buttes on Highway 22.  It’s a scenic drive to the grounds, topped only by the beauty of the valley next to an inlet of Lake Sakakawea.  Food vendors and others are on site, and there’s plenty of parking.

  • Check out the “Things to Do” calendar here on Beautiful Badlands ND to see what else is going on this month.
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