SAN DIEGO MISSION
VALLEY POW WOW
By Roy Cook
At the Town and County
San Diego room in Mission Valley this past Wednesday evening; April 12,
2006 we enjoyed the opportunity to express our culture and traditions.
For a timeless four hours we are, once again, in the circle. To be in
the circle is not an abstract new age buzz word. This circle
contains aspects of the red road we lightly place our feet to. This is
the entry path to that special place and songs that inspires us to dance
beyond our physical selves. This evening the Educating Every Child Institute
Conference is as close as we can experience to a down home plains and
prairie Indian dance on many of our Tribal reservations. For one thing
tonight, there are no contests. But there are lots of songs from good
drums: Hale and Co., Green River, Red Warriors. Everyone has an ample
opportunity to dance and enjoy being what we are, Indian people.
appointed pow wow officials: Emcee, Ben Hale and Arena Director, Warren
Anquoe undertook their duties responsibly and every effort was made to
not offend anyone. Conference committee members and Prairie Flower Ruben
were recognized and honored for their efforts. Emcee Hale continued the
education theme of the conference with a short Los Angeles pow wow history
and descriptions of various dance style categories.
San Diego American
Indian Warriors Association is recognized and acknowledgements are made
of our Military Warriors now serving and past veterans of many campaigns.
One can live a lifetime in shorter periods of time but for these good
four hours in San Diego, California many of us had a dandy time.
Dance has always
played an important role in Plains Indian cultures, as a central element
in both religious and secular life. Less than 100 years ago, powwows did
not exist, as we know them today, though a variety of dance traditions
that would eventually evolve into the modern powwow were in place. Among
these traditions were summer gatherings of ceremonial and social dances,
and warrior society dances held to honor and bring protection upon their
Both these traditions,
along with many other American Indian practices, underwent severe restrictions
during the last century when the United States government, in its effort
to prohibit certain Indian ceremonies, banned a number of dance-based
traditions. Despite these bans, however, Plains Indian dancing did not
entirely disappear. Ceremonies and dances went "underground"
and were held on the far reaches of reservations in secret, or were masked
as other types of events entirely. In these forms dance continued to play
a part in Plains Indian life, although a quiet one, during this culturally
It was not until
1933 that the government lifted its oppressive religion and cultural bans
on American Indian Art and Dance could once again take an active, public
place in American Indian life. At the end of World War II with the return
of Indian soldiers from abroad, the warrior society dances of the past
century began to acquire new meaning. Additionally, returning Korea and
Cold War warriors were honored at powwows or "Homecoming Dances,"
as they were sometimes called on the Southern Plains, which included the
songs, dances and regalia of earlier traditional warrior societies. Most
prominently represented by the popular Gourd Clan Societies introduced
by the Kiowa.
Outside of the dance
arena important social ties and customs were also rebuilt, including the
honoring of elders, naming and adoption ceremonies, the reception of families
back into public life following a period of mourning, and a general bonding
between families and friends. The general structure of these early powwows
resembled the summer dance celebrations of the past century and included
the use of a camp crier, Eyapaha or announcer, the gathering of families
to camp out at celebration grounds, and important social interaction among
Before 1950, the
term "powwow" was used only on the Southern Plains in reference
to American Indian gatherings and celebrations of song and dance. However,
powwows gained further prominence in the 1950s and 1960s throughout the
Northern Plains region when Sioux, Crow, and Blackfeet tribes began to
sponsor Wachipi, Intertribal gatherings for fun and dancing. The original
dances were held by members of elite warrior societies, mostly based on
the Omaha Heluska.. This Omaha tribal origins is frequently acknowledged.
There were a variety of names used by different tribes for these dances.
Among them are Omaha Dance used by the Sioux, Hot Dance used by the Crow
and Dakota Dance by the Cree.
Urban powwows have
continued to grow over the last sixty years; whereas 70 years ago most
powwows took place on reservations, some of the biggest are now held in
convention centers and gyms in large cities around the country. Today,
the powwow is both a community gathering and cultural celebration. It
is not a commercial event, nor is it purely "entertainment."
It is an important spiritual and social gathering of people to celebrate
American Indian traditions, dance and social customs.
Although the warrior
societies and early Plains "Homecoming" powwows of the past
were primarily the domain of male dancers, today's powwows are open to
everyone: men, women, and even small children. This family participation
by: Elders, men and women and the ever popular "tiny tots" indicates
that not only are music and dance alive and well in Plains Indian culture,
but that they will continue to play an important role for generations
to come. "Honor Dances," "Specials" and "Giveaways"
recognize the importance of families and individuals participating in
the powwow and honor them for their commitment.
Powwows help to keep
song and dance a very real and contemporary part of Native American life.
At the same time, the changes that powwows go through help to make them
a living art form. It is important to realize that recent innovations
and shared styles are not less traditional nor "unauthentic,"
as dance dress styles and details still mark personal heritage as well
as individual taste.
Maybe we will see each other at a pow wow near you, soon. Thank you, Aho,