The 37th annual Labor Day weekend Pow Wow was held on the UOP campus this year and went on for three days, from Aug. 31st to Sept. 2nd.
A Pow Wow is a Native American celebration that encourages the cultivation of the culture.
Song and dance are important throughout the ceremony for many reasons including remembrance of war, religion, or just as an act of social interaction.
The origin of Pow Wows is debated due to the clouded recorded history.
At the entrance of the university, visitors of all ages were welcomed by the beating of drums and tribal songs, calling attention.
Families gathered in a circle on the lawn emphasizing a dance floor in the middle.
The announcer booth sat at the head of the circle and named off the lead dancers and a few tribes in attendance, such as Apache, Lacota, and Southern Ute.
Inez Ruiz-Huston of UOP’s El Centro Department estimated the attendance rate for the weekend to be near the same amount as the years before.
“Usually we have around two thousand people over the course of the weekend. Maybe three,” said Ruiz-Huston.
Two drum circles were present on both sides of the announcer.
Besides the MC, Bobby Whitebird, the drummers/singers were a focal point of the Pow Wow.
The Northern drum circle was seated on the left hand side of the announcer booth and the Southern circle on the right.
It is understood that both circles are territorial of their music and that neither are allowed to play the other’s songs.
To the average spectator just passing through the songs sung by the drummers may seem like improvised gibberish, but upon closer inspection they’d notice that the singers chant in unison, raising spirits and paying respect to those they sing for.
The MC tells the visitors sitting at the circle that the songs heard that day and ones at other Pow Wows can be traced back to specific tribal families who wrote them.
He told a story of a friend who was asked how a song at some distant Pow Wow written by the stranger’s family from Oklahoma was being sung so far away, declaring that the Native culture runs far and deep.
A Pow Wow is a serious spiritual event. Prayers were said for veterans, ancestors, the dead and the living.
The clothings worn are not a simple act of decoration, but hold a significant meaning to the wearer indicating their status.
The feeling of the event was similar to that of a family gathering, people sat around and ate, shared stories and watched the dancing.
Dancers wore numbers on their outfits indicating the groups and dances they’d be in throughout the weekend.
Dances were split into age groups and there was full participation from the crowds.
Many stoic faces were worn by those in full native attire as they reminisced in the history of their people.
And yet, at this time of celebration, they danced enthusiastically when called upon.
The vendors of this event sold many native american trinkets and some of them were dressed in long feathered headdresses, beaded breastplates and shin guards, vibrant headbands and bangled skirts.
Objects available for purchase during the event were expertly made.
Items such as pipes, instruments and statuettes were whittled from woods and others from soapstone.
The most popular sells were made of beadwork and weaving, some selling for as much as $45 or more.
It was easy to see that many hours of tedious labor came together to create jewelry and dream catchers among other things.
One could hear some expressing their concern for the heritage not being fully appreciated and at risk of being lost.
Nearing the end of the final ceremony Whitebird called on “The Creator” to aid people on their journeys and heal our country.
Dancers stood and took the prayers into themselves.
The final plea to the creator was that the culture of the native people be appreciated by all.