By Roy Cook
Mountain chaparral defines the Manzanita Indian Nation green environment. This, September 19, 2009, is a joyful celebration of youth, Tribal culture and long time friends gathering to be what we are, Indian people. A revitalization phenomenon is the organized programs of: language, song, and culture on many of the 21 San Diego Indian reservations.
There is a good representation of families and dancers who attend the Soaring Eagle dance classes here today. They enjoy the opportunity to learn the Intertribal songs and dance styles. The Soaring Eagles group is sponsored by: Southern California American Indian Resource, SCAIR. Organized by Vickie Gambala, SDUSD Indian Education. Residents of Campo and Manzanita and Viejas travel to Old Town San Diego on Tuesday night for the dance classes. They are free and everyone is welcome to attend.
In the late afternoon, there are happy youthful faces with the evidence of pies devoured. They were pleased to win prize money in the Watermelon and pie eating contests. Adult categories were more emotional and competitive.
During the dinner break, Anthony Pico provided the blessing and spoke to the group. He related how it felt good to be able to gather joyfully and not just at a wake or funeral. Yet, at the same time, we must keep our relatives constantly in our hearts and minds. Their wisdom and struggles were for our benefit. Just as we must keep in mind our future hopes, our Indian children.
This is a good day to see faces from our 60s generation group. Some familiar friends from this reservation have been under health care recently. Both Leroy and his brother Nick Elliot had the plumbing of their tickers over hauled. We are very glad to report that both are coming along better and their hearts are doing well too.
Leroy Elliot led off the Bird singing with family and friends from near and far in the line of singers. There were other styles and singers of Southern California and Colorado River songs sung this evening. Some sang as counterpoint, at the same time, and others as a distinct variation of the Bird song.
There was a fine turn out of teams gathered for the Peon contests later that night. The term Peon is from the associated identification of the European to the hidden bones in the guessing game. They thought they looked like pawns, as in chess, Arizona. Baja, and youth teams were assembled and redefined for the competition. Peon songs are sung in the evening into the early hours of the morning. Often the youth will form into teams and start games early in the evening and later the adult teams organize and they will warm up well after midnight.
"Peon" is a highly competitive game of complex strategy, skill and calculation. It is played with eight players - four on each side, with an additional man or woman to act as umpire (Koymi). The two sides are usually made up of male or female players from different tribes or bands. The object of the game is for one side to win all the tally sticks.