36th Annual Pow Wow brings together the Native American and Inland Empire communities

Courtesy of Pow Wow

Sponsored by Native American Student Programs, the Native American Student Association, the Graduate Student Association and the Rupert Costo Endowment, the 36th Annual Pow Wow was held on Saturday, May 27 at the Riverside Sports Complex.

While the arts and crafts vendors, food vendors and information tables were still setting up around the field, the Cahuilla bird singers began the event at 11 a.m. The Pow Wow committee also thanked the Cahuilla people whose land the event was hosted on. Before they left, the Cahuilla bird singers told the audience to “always think good of other people.”

Before the Gourd Dance began, David Patterson (Head Man Dancer of last year’s Pow Wow) was asked to say a morning prayer, thanking the Creator and asking Him to bless the arena, dancers, singers and people. Then at 12 p.m., the Head of Southern Drum, Hale and Co, played a Gourd Dance while dancers danced in the arena.

The Master of Ceremonies Bobby Whitebird, member of the Southern Cheyenne Tribe and program manager for Alternative Services in Porterville, guided the audience in when to stand, join in a dance or pay a tribute to the dancers. “Even all non-Indians have a purpose in the circle,” stated Whitebird.

This year’s Pow Wow also saw the return of the first Ms. UCR Pow Wow Princess pageant since 1995’s Medicine Ways Pow Wow. The Pow Wow Princess will carry the crown title to represent UCR as she travels through Indian Country. Previous Pow Wow princess, previously titled Ms. Medicine Ways Pow Wow Princess, Star Rubido, was present to crown the new crown holder. The runner-up, Bella Rodriguez from the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, was first announced. Then Dominique Lombardi, from the Morongo reservation, was announced as Ms. UCR Pow Wow Princess. Newly crowned, Lombardi danced to an Honor Song while being accompanied by Rodriguez, her family and the Pow Wow committee.

The Pow Wow officially began with the Grand Entry in which two veterans carried the American flag and the “POW-MIA” flag. They were followed by the Eagle Staff which consisted of Head Man Dancer Nathan Logan, a Cerritos College student studying business management and Head Woman Dancer Evangeline Lopez, a second-year Ph.D. student in critical dance studies at UCR.

The Head Man and Head Woman each had their own Honor Song to dance to and held a giveaway. They were then followed by the the Golden Age Women dance contest and the Golden Age Men contest. “They’ve seen it all. They just can’t remember it all,” joked Whitebird as the golden age dance contest ended.

At 5 p.m., Danza Azteka Kalpulli Teuxihuitl performed a couple of dances in intricate headdresses and regalia. After the first dance, one of the dancers told the audience, “We are not a performance group. We are here to share our culture with the community.” Each of their dances began with the same short dance that represented the constellations and planets as they danced around a clay pot with smoking incense coming out of it.

As the Pow Wow was coming to a close, inter-tribal dances were held where dancers and spectators joined as they danced around the field. After a second Gourd Dance, Whitefield explained that the dance is not part of the Pow Wow but is a ceremonial dance.

The Pow Wow also honored veterans throughout the event by having Hale and Co. perform a victory song as they danced. They were also asked to share their stories and what Memorial Day meant to them, and many recalled the other men and women who fought alongside them but didn’t return home.

The Pow Wow came to a close after the two flags were carried outside the field. The Eagle Staff danced behind the flags on their way out and thanked the other dancers at the event. Patterson gave a closing prayer to end the event. During the 1900s, many Native American songs had to be sung in private. Now, in this celebration of Native American culture, the songs are sung to bring together the various Native and non-Native communities in California.

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