Final Prep and the Olympics

The opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics are currently on television at the moment. I’m watching it as I write this so if this post makes even less sense than my posts usually do you at least know the reason. I wanted to get in one last post before I leave for Farpoint tomorrow and this is really the only time I’ll have to type anything up. Plus, it gives me a chance to blog a bit about some of the pomp and ceremony that will take place throughout the show.

My new mask is almost complete. The painting has been done and matches the color of the rest of the costume much better than the original did. I think it also looks a lot scarier than the original. It’s going to be a lot warmer inside the mask simply because the opening at the mouth is a lot smaller than it was on the original mask. All that is left to be done on the new mask is to glue some tights fabric over the eyeholes and attach some cording to hold the mask in place.

Attempting the "Buddy Christ" pose in the new arms and an incomplete head-sleeve.

The new arms are much better than the original pair I made, in terms of the painting and -for the most part – fit. Maggie painted my arms like I was wearing them and they look much more like actual stone. I had a little bit of trouble with the fingernails but they’ll do. The headsleeve is also going to be better than the one I was wearing at Shore Leave. In that case the head sleeve wasn’t sewn to the rest of the sleeves and there were huge gaping holes where it was pulling away. With luck, I won’t have the same problem this time around.

The dress was successfully remade. I actually found the old dress the other day. When I pulled it out it was crunchy and stiff and didn’t look at all like stone. It’s a really good thing I had already made the decision to remake the costume. I almost didn’t have enough fabric to make my dress. It took a little more planning than the original dresses had but everything seems to have worked out for the best.

Maggie’s re-design of the wings included extending the length of the back harness and removing a good deal of the foam that had originally been on the top of the harness. The wings sit against my back much better now and no longer drag on the floor. Win! I’m really looking forward to standing around in a corner of the Crowne Plaza on Sunday trying to scare the bejeezus out of people.

And now, on to the Olympics. I was very excited to watch the ceremony tonight. I caught the closing ceremony of the last Winter Olympics in Torino. If you’ll remember, a part of the closing ceremony is given over to the host country for the next Olympic Games, so they can start the ball rolling on the preparations. I figured the First Nations would be featured in that ceremony and I was not disappointed. It seemed only natural to expect them to be incorporated into this year’s program as well.

I am happy to report that the ceremony all but started out with the First Nations! After a short intro video and an entrance via ramp by a snowboarder delegates of the First Nations tribes around Vancouver came out to welcome the athletes and visitors in their native languages, followed by representatives of tribes from the various regions of Canada: Pacific Coast, Prairie, Eastern Woodlands, etc.

Now, if you just happened upon this blog and don’t actually know much about me, you might be wondering why I am so excited about the presence of First Nations people in this program. It’s really pretty simple…I’m a part of the Munsee-Delaware nation, which currently calls Munsee, Ontario, Canada “home.” They weren’t originally based in that area, of course. Originally our group lived in what is now New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Although I’ve also got Welsh/Scots-Irish heritage I grew up more Native than anything else (except when it came time for Highland Festivals). Naturally, I’m excited when First Nations are prominently featured in events as huge as the Olympics.

Anyway…back to the topic. Being the token Native in my group of friends means I usually wind up the de facto “expert” when it comes to questions about the culture. I’ve come to expect this by now so I wasn’t all that surprised to be answering uestions abou somet of the stuff that was going on up on screen when the tribes came out. Since I firmly believe open communication and education is the key to creating understanding and building bridges between cultures I decided to post some of the questions that came up throughout the ceremony and my answers.

“Why do they keep saying ‘aboriginal people” and “First Nations?” — Technically, “First Nations” is the official term for Native tribes in Canada who do not fall into the category of Inuit or Metis. The Inuit are settled in the Arctic area and the Metis have mixed ancestry (Yes, I know that many tribes could actually be considered to be of mixed ancestry but we’re not picking nits here. This is simply how the group is classified and distinguished from other Native groups in Canada). The term “Aboriginal people,” in contrast, actually refers to all First Nations, Inuit and Metis people together. Both are considered correct depending on the situation. However, individually, most Native people (both in Canada and in the United States) are more likely to refer to themselves by their tribal affiliation. I actually kind of prefer “First Nations” to “American Indian/Native American” as it recognizes that there were nations in existance in the Americas before what we refer to as First Contact.

Hmm…the clothing of the Canadian tribes looks very similar to the Southwestern tribes here in America. (Not a question, per se, but sparked a short explanation) — This comment followed the entrance of representatives from the Canadian Prairie. The regalia that they were wearing was the type one typically finds at powwows today. The dances that most of the folks were doing were also the kind that you’ll see at powwows. The modern powwow is made up of many traditions that come from the Plains and Prairie region of the United States and Canada. There’s a tremendous powwow culture in Saskatchewan and this culture has shifted down and become the major backbone of what is known as Pan-Indian culture. A lot of tribe and region-specific regalia traditions had actually started to die out because of powwow culture – too many people choosing to do fancy dance regalia over, say, traditional Seneca dresses. The past couple of years have seen a resurgence in the old forms, though, which I’m happy about. My own regalia is very much specific to my region. Specifically southwestern regalia is actually rarely seen outside of the Arizona/Colorado/New Mexico/Utah area.

Okay…it’s a little after 11:30pm now. There’s still a little left to go in the ceremony but I think I’m going to sign off now. The late hour is starting to get the better of me – I’ve been up since 5am this morning and worked a shift at the coffee shop today – and I want to sit back and relax for a little bit.

The next post should be the Farpoint con report. 🙂

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