San Diego Intertribal Singers
San Diego Intertribal Singers respect all tribal songs. We welcome the opportunity to learn tribal songs from each direction of the circle of life. We will walk gently, sing from the heart and realize our place on this Turtle Island. There are tribal people everywhere! We practice singing regularly: traditional songs, social songs, pow wow songs and most recently the song - cycle traditional song of Southern California. We will continue to approach each participation and invitation with respect and enthusiasm. There is no substitute for practice. We shall always endeavor to improve. The San Diego Intertribal Singers are appreciative of the generosity and inspiration of our teachers, elders and your continued encouragement and criticism.
Thank you all, mehan.
San Diego Intertribal Practice
Carrier of the Dream Wheel
This is the Wheel of Dreams Which
is carried on their voices

By means of which their voices turn

And center upon being.

It encircles the First World, This powerful wheel.

They shape their songs upon the wheel 

And spin the names of the earth and sky.

The aboriginal names.

They are old men, 
or men 
Who are old in their voices,

And they carry the wheel among the camps, 

Saying: Come, Come 

Let us tell the old 


Let us sing the sacred songs.

N. Scott Momaday

Univ. of Arizona

For the past forty years the San Diego Intertribal singers have continued to evolve. Mutual interests in traditional American songs and the social participation in the pow wow circle has sustained the drum. The drum is a respectful term that acknowledges the primacy of the group effort and reminds the participants at the drum that they are subordinate to the whole. Sitting at the drum one often heard, "You boys take care of this drum and it will take care of you all."

Respect and humility are essential elements of traditional tribal life. Around the drum there is a universe of listeners that are very qualified to judge the quality and attitude of the presentation. The sustaining reward for singing good is overwhelming and very warmly emotional. So often one feels spirituality or a special quality of audience beyond place or that worldly moment.

About 1969 or 1970 at San Diego State College the Urban and Rural Indian community organized to petition for a department of American Indian Studies. Gwen Cooper, Cherokee, was assigned to be the schools' liaison. Efforts succeed in appointing John Rouillard to head the Indian Studies office and organize classes and events. John was a professional musician, high school band teacher and Santee Sioux. He brought a life long interest in traditional American Indian music to the campus. Students, staff and community members produced workshops, conferences and pow wows. He bought a pow wow drum. This was the heartbeat of the 'State Boys' intertribal drum. Art Ketcheshano, Kickapoo, was an accomplished head singer living in the Los Angeles area. He was the first to come down to San Diego and teach about the protocol of the Southern song tradition.

From that beginning there have been many Northern and Southern lead singers: Delbert and Frank Pomalee, Tim Redbird, Foster Hood, Melvin Ahhaitty, Ralph Zotay, Millard Clark and others who have made good contributions to the repertory of the also changing participants of the San Diego Intertribal drum. Also in this 1970-90 time you could ask the head singer for permission to sit in and be a part of the intertribal group singing at the time. There was a good camaraderie and opportunity to learn songs. In these past ten to fifteen years there has been a shift in the intertribal structure of the song presentation. Especially Southern Plains singing is evolved into a multi faceted and many times tribally specific presentation.

The San Diego drum has enjoyed hundreds of invitations to participate and be the invited head drum for many pow wow events. It has traveled to France and Australia by invitation of their Nations cultural officers. Roy Cook was the drum keeper for 25 years.

In this new millennium the San Diego Intertribal Singers continue to accept invitations for smaller group, single morning or afternoon or specific singing role presentations: Flag or Veterans, memorial, spiritual, gourd dance or round dance songs. We attend many of the same Tribal activities but on an individual basis and often join in with other groups for pow wow singing.

Indigenous Peoples Ring