Sycuan Gathering 2002
By Roy Cook

All can see, the sky smiled and blessed the dance circle. This center of green is soft, cool and inviting. The dancers float as they turn and smile. Easy on the knees. This Sycuan dance circle makes you want to keep dancing. We can see the committee is doing all it can to make the gathering enjoyable. Well built Arbors, shady, and again the welcomed misting if it gets too warm. There are many tantalizing levels and dimensions of culture for the visitor to sample just a bit or feast for days and nights. All peoples are recognizing fallen heroes this month. Tribal people traditionally honor our warriors.
"Each flag is brought forth by a family. They bring it from a previous ceremony where it covered a fallen warrior that has gone on and it returns again to our focus in this ceremony. As a warrior of today prepares to raise it in the air we view a connection. Both have taken it upon themselves to defend their people. They have been willing to put themselves in harm's way a nd, in some cases, give their lives in that defense. In recognition of this a flag is given them and their family upon their passing. As the flags unfurl in the morning breeze we are aware of these individuals once again amongst the people and we have a chance to honor them and say thank you." One of the daily attendees continues to shares these warrior tradition and color guard thoughts as the first songs and the posting of families warriors flag.
"As the flags are raised a solitary voice cuts through the air. The lead line of a flag song is on the wind. It's joined by a dozen others, sounding as one. Mystic River Singers are offering up this song to those gathered here, the seen and the unseen. The honor beats crack like rifle fire and the report reminds us of the commitments of these warriors. As the song's words trail off and the song finishes we hear the continued beating of our own hearts and the muffled snap of the flags in the breeze as continued reminders of our connection and participation at this gathering." (Thanks, Ben Nance.) Another view, AIWA, American Indian Warriors Association, member shared these impressions on the gourd dance songs and dancers. "The rattles shake, the fans shield and bless the dancers. There are many different tribes and cultures brought together to this gourd dance. We move to the fast beating of the song, the singers voices lifting in the night air. We are all one in the dance, with one heartbeat. The drum calls us and we feel there are more with us than we can see. Are they in the song? Do we feel them in the earth under our feet? We feel them in the air we breath, we see them in the faces of our brothers. This is an honor and prayer and ceremony." (Thanks, Ron Hawkins)

Of special note are the opportunities to experience traditional Tipai custom and tradition: Kumeyaay Music, beautiful Tucuk songs were sung at 10 am each day. The Kumeyaay dance completion on Saturday at 5 PM showcased lead singers and loads of fun. Yuman, Cocopah, Tipai regalia, dance and games. The games are Tribally referred to as peon. This term often is confusing to the first time observer. The word peon is Spanish for pawn and residual from the last colonial experience that the local tribal people have endured. Specifically it refers to the small bone tied to the wrist and held in the hand. The shape of these small bones, there are two, each tied to the leather thong, resembles the familiar, to western eyes, pawn piece on the chess board. This years winners were: Men (1,2,3) San Pasqual, Manzanita, Viejas. Women (1,2) Pauma, Campo. Congratulations to all for all the songs and of course the Koimi, John Christman, for keeping all events, smooth running. This annual pow wow event has drawn the finest quality representative Intertribal: plains and prairie music, regalia, dance.
There is a Food park of tasty selections. Also, Individual vendors of Tribal art, clothes, jewelry, decorative items and gifts. There were some great songs sung By the Host Northern: Mystic River, also the Southern drum: The Southern Boys and visiting drums. Fine informative and enteraining talk by the Emcee Mike Burgess. Thoughtful messages and prayers by Ron Christman for all our relatives in attendance and those who, for whatever reasons, would not be a part of the gathering this year. Sycuan, yes here is a quality of place, that is very comfortable. We hope to see you there for the next one!
Roy Cook (Mazopiye Wichasha) Opata/Osage, author/publisher.