Native American Culture Days 2004
Honoring Our Elders
By Roy Cook

I am inspired by the location to suggest more appropriate names, Hatam Park instead of ‘Balboa’ Park: Kumeyaay Way instead of ‘Presidents’ Way and Park Blvd. This location, within close proximity of a former Kumeyaay Village site, is a comfortable place in today’s world for many of our Tribal friends and visitors. San Diego Schools Indian Education Title VII and the Indian Human Resource Center organized this May program. This was a glorious weekend. Warm, cool, shady, sunny, ocean breezes, laughter, songs and entertainment of the best quality are freely available. You didn’t even need a ticket to see it all!

There are many special highlights this weekend:

1. Film celebrity and recording artist Floyd ‘Red Crow’ Westerman graciously participated both days. He was in constant attendance for interview, conversation, autographs or information on his ongoing passion: Indian Child welfare and adoption. He spoke of his personal experiences at Wounded Knee II along with Dennis Banks. On the guitar, he delighted the audience with songs from his ever popular and recent recordings. The ‘Redskin’ Diva herself, Aragon Starr shared her songs and then sang back up and harmony with Floyd Westerman.


2. Also the American Indian Warriors Association members composed the Color Guard and participated in the opening Veterans Gourd dance. Don Vigeneault, AIWA member, is the Head Gourd dancer for the pow wow.

3.Five drums were in constant attendance to fill the arena with songs from all over this Great Turtle Island. Host Northern drum is Dancing Cloud and Volcan Mountain is the Southern drum.

4. Toltecas en Aztlan dance troupe closed down the Pow wow celebration both days. Their presentation delighted the visitors. Drumming, constant drumming continues urging whirling dancers with Flashing feathers and rattles shaking to the constant drumming. On rainbow colored regalia we see carefully applied Gold and silver embroidery flashing in the bright Tonatiuh sun. Glorious colors, exotic toztli feathers of the South. A fine finish to two fine days of celebration.

Thousands of visitors enjoyed the circle of vendors from the greater Southwest Indian country. On view are artistic creations of traditional design and exotic interpretations: sculpture, painting, apparel, personal adornment and jewelry. Also there are the always-popular food booths to feed the inner person. Tasty delights to keep one moving on this circle of fascinating offerings. Many at this Pow wow celebration acquired many special gifts and lasting memories. The committee appreciated the California Chiricahua Apache group for hosting the Saturday lunch for the Pow wow dancers and singers.

Each year the Indian Education committee is pleased to recommend a Tribal Elder for recognition. We have many Native American tribal people living in San Diego. Many are from all over the United States of America, Canada and Mexico. We are always honored to recognize a local Kumeyaay and share the pride and experiences that is part of their lives. This year, on Sunday, a large group of family, friends and supporters of Indian culture join Delia Millard member of the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.
Anthony Pico, Chairman of the Viejas Band, addressed the Pow wow attendees with a moving and warm tribute in honor of our Tribal elder, Delia Millard. Additionally, Ron Christman sang four appropriate Kumeyaay Bird songs accompanied by Chairman Pico, former Priest Allen Boureguard and two other family singers.

Pow wow committee chairperson Vicky Gambala, Cherokee accompanied by Elaine George RN. In traditional Choctow regalia, she presented the Honoring Our Elders pow wow recognition. Ms George presented this honor in her tribal language, Mississippi Choctaw. One of the constant strengths of these celebrations of life is the ability to bring many tribal groups together in an original American Indian context to traditionally enjoy the gift of the Creator together.

Title Seven Indian Education Program offered a children's craft corner with wonderful volunteers and staff instruction - for free. No cost, all supplies, all smiles, all joy, and all stories of accomplishment and pride in our Indian heritage, free. Organized by Vickie Gambala, IHRC community board President, the Children's Corner with rows of tables in the shade saw hundreds of children over the two days. They made baskets, painted tiles, worked with clay, made dream catchers.

This event offered an opportunity to examine complexities of California tribal music form and style not often seen out of the traditional role of song presentation.

The Tucuk Birdsong is one of the major traditional Yuman song styles sung in this Southern California region. These songs extend over tribal and linguistic boundaries. In point of fact these songs extend beyond the imposed international boundary. These Bird songs have been sung before time immemorial. Their role is multi-faceted and multi-dimensional in expression and application.
Ron Christman, Tucuk singer, has been listening to local tribal songs for all of his life. Ron's father sang variations of the Kumeyaay traditional song styles. Following Ron's military service and during his long employment as an Engineer by the California Department of Forestry, he sought out tribal elders for instruction in singing these traditional Bird songs. For the past thirty years Ron has often called upon to participate in the custom and tradition of the local Kumeyaay people. He is frequently requested to speak to non-tribal groups and address civic and youth activities.

Juan Meza Cuero led the Tipai Wildcat songs. "I was born in the Protero area, of San Diego County in 1939. Alfonso Meza, my Father, started me singing when I was seven. He taught me the structure and presentation of my first Wildcat songs. I have been singing this style of Tipai song all my life. There are many other styles of Tipai song and there used to be many more singers of Wildcat and other Tipai songs. I am very interested in doing what I can to see these Nyemii, Gato, Wildcat songs continue to be sung. I feel it is my role to teach these songs to the next generation of our tribal youth. In this way I hope to bring a sense of pride and cultural self-esteem to our Tipai children’s identity."

This day and every day the Creator is kind to all his creation. Things are never more than what we can endure. This is the compassion of the Creator. Our individual human character will define how we deal with the circumstances of life and those things around us. Best of all the children were there, our American Indian future, smiling, trusting, running in the sunlight and shade, and wiggling their toes in the grass. The children were laughing and rolling in play or gathered around elders for comfort and special treats. These children are our national future, we must always think of them. Thank you, Aho, Mehan.