Native American Culture Days 2008

By Roy Cook

Has it really been Twenty-five years? This weekend recognizes the efforts of community members and Indian Education people working to do the right thing for our Indian children. San Diego Schools Indian Education Title VII and the Indian Human Resource Center organized this May 10& 11, 2008 program. Vicky Gambala is also the community board Chairperson of the Indian Human Resource Center. IHRC. Richard Van Dyke Parker, IHRC Vice-chairperson is the Pow wow Chairman for this event. The MC is Mitchell Parker and the Arena director is David Patterson. We are particularly pleased to welcome our Sac and Fox good friend, Hollywood celebrity and USMC Korean war veteran Saginaw Grant.

This historic park locations name would be better served by the appropriate name of: Hatam Park instead of ‘Balboa’ Park and Kumeyaay Way instead of ‘Presidents’ Way and Park Blvd. This location, within close proximity of a former Kumeyaay Village site under the leadership of Jose M. Hatam and is across the street, Park Blvd, and was in Florida Canyon. This is a fine place, a very traditional place, to hold American Indian culture Days. I am remained by the location to suggest a more appropriate name, Hatam Park instead of ‘Balboa’ Park: Kumeyaay Way instead of ‘Presidents’ Way and Park Blvd.

There are many special highlights this weekend:

Each morning at 10am, 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 and my Uncle Benito Carranza 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.” See the Nymii, Wildcat page <> for more on this song style.

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.

Each year the Indian Education committee is pleased to recommend a Tribal member for recognition. Brian Dumas Adams, from Jamul was having problems with math in 1978. With the tutoring he received from the Indian Education program and the encouragement of his grandmother Jane Dumas, he achieved success. He has since gone on to serve his country proudly for 22 years as a member of the United States Coast Guard, Semper Paratus (Always Ready).
This is the 25th year of the San Diego Unified Indian Education program. We are particularly honored to recognize a local Kumeyaay. He was honored with a gift Pendleton blanket and four Tukuk Bird songs were sung by Ron Christman and Ben Nance. We can all share the pride and experiences that is part of their lives.

Further, we are very proud of the many Native American tribal students that graduated this year. Many successfully completed their training and education from High School, Community College, Bachelors, Masters degree and Doctors of philosophy: Briana Miller, Crawford High School, Michel Cadotte High School, Robert Molloy, Adrian Morales, Shyla Barker, Leah Durbin, Sheila Naajiibah Dasher Southwestern College, Chuck Toyer, Maria Hunter High School, Carl Mullins, Karen Vigneault MA and O. Pierre Romero PhD. An honoring song and recognition of their achievement was a part of the afternoon festivities. Many of the graduates are from all over the United States of America, Canada and Mexico.

This year and always the ladies are first in tribal country. After all, it is Mothers Day. They carry the culture, as they carry the future of the people, our Indian Children. Indian Education for Indian children away from the reservations and homes of their parents and grandparents. In this same way one of the constant benefits of these public celebrations of life or Pow wow is the ability to bring many tribal groups together in an original American Indian context to traditionally enjoy the gift of the Creator together.

The Indian Education Program offered a children's craft corner with wonderful volunteers and staff instruction by Jennie Alvarado and her family of helpers’ -all for free. No cost, all supplies, all smiles, all joy, and all stories of accomplishment and pride in our Indian heritage, free. Underwritten by Southern California American Indian Resource Center, SCAIR and organized by Vickie Gambala, Indian Education community liaison. The Children's Cornerwith rows of tables in the shade saw hundreds of children over the two days. They made and decorated felt bags, painted wood figures, worked with clay, made bird feeders and dream catchers.

American Indian Warriors Association is the Honor Color Guard. Also participating in the opening Veterans Gourd dance each day is Henry Mendibles, AIWA member and Head Gourd dancer for the pow wow.


Tracy Lee Nelson (Luiseno/Diegueno of the Wassuk Clan and Duro Family) enrolled tribal member from the La Jolla Indian Reservation, San Diego County, California brought his Blues, Reservation style. Full Blood power. Indian country is the crossroads of the American dream and the conscience of our American Nation. Tribal people have lived the blues. He has traveled all across Indian country from New York City to Seattle, Washington and New Mexico. Tracy's unique voice, original lyrics and Blues guitar work comes straight from the heart, shouting out stories and issues that should have been spoken of long ago. Years of performing experience have given Tracy the honor of being mentioned in Native People Magazine as one of the finest Native Artists. Tracy's variety and playing styles range from the traditional Delta sounds of the Blues (Mesa Grande) to the basics of Rock and Roll Blues (Rez Rider). His masterful guitar work, electric slide and traditional acoustic blues are something that all will enjoy.

Pollen Trail Dancers led by A Brent Chase, from Dine land were dynamic and very accomplished in their presentations. Brent’s fine singing voice and over thirteen years experience giving cultural presentations were very evident. Of particular note were the excellent hoop dance and special purification exit of the dance arena at the end of the day. They can be reached at: <> for your next event. Brent said, “Learning is a lifelong achievement.”

Host Northern drum is Dancing Cloud and Hale and company is the Southern drum. Visiting Drums were: Bear Springs singers and the Red Hand drum.

Toltecas en Aztlan dance troupe is a part of 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.

This was a glorious weekend. Warm, cool, shady, sunny, airplanes, crisp breezes, airplanes, laughter, airplanes, songs, the most beautiful people in North America and entertainment of the best quality are freely available. Thousands of visitors enjoyed the circle of vendors from the Great Plains and 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. Just as you eat something good just over there are more tasty delights to keep one moving around the dance circle. Many visitors at this Pow wow celebration acquired many special gifts and lasting memories. You don’t even need a ticket to see it all. It is free and open to the public.

Juan Castellanos, IHRC Executive director and Jonathan York were everywhere motivating their crew and doing all they could to see a safe successful event be a part of the experience we all came away with this weekend. Many thanks for the great efforts of all and their respective organizations for making this event a good time.

A diversity of Songs echoed in these Kumeyaay canyons of time immemorial. These songs are to all our ancestors and to all our relations: here we are once again, we are what you taught us, we are what has been, and will continue to be, Indian people. There is perfect weather this day and every day because the Creator is generous 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 our American Indian future, the children were there. They were 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 Indian Nations future, we must always think of them. Thank you, Aho, Mehan.