The Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians hosted its 23rd annual Payomkawichum (People of the West) Inter-Tribal Pow Wow on September 21. Although it was held at the reservation near San Jacinto, it was relocated to The Oaks football stadium and condensed from three days into one.
Dancers, drummers and singers from throughout California, several other western states and Canada seemed to enjoy the more intimate setting and spent time visiting with each other.
Emcee Tom Phillips opened the event that included 30 categories of dance contests that ranged from Juniors (age 7 to 12) through Golden (55+). Having hosted pow wows for about 50 years, he said he loves being with the people and having them educated to Native American culture and protocols. He said the biggest change with the shortened event was to make sure the timing of things was on point.
“We have good arena directors and our judges and singers know we’re on a time schedule, so they keep things moving,” said Phillips, of Manteca. “The (Soboba Pow wow) committee is very involved and we appreciate that they are always there to help and give us encouragement. That’s one of the strengths of a good pow wow – and a good sound system, which they also have here.”
Pamela James has been on the committee for more than 10 years. She also participates as a Jingle dancer. She said combining a three-day event into one and changing locations did have some logistical challenges.
“But the most important thing is to make dancers feel welcome; they are our best marketing agents when they leave here – if they were treated well, they will let others know,” said James, of Moreno Valley.
Grass Dancer Peter Joe Olney and his wife, Fancy Shawl Dancer Audrey, traveled from Yakima, Washington to compete in the event they have attended a few times. He said they have both been dancing for about 50 years and attend about 125 pow wows per year.
“We really like the atmosphere and the warmer weather here,” said Olney. “Some of the best dancers in Indian Country come here to dance.”
Before the first Grand Entry at 1 p.m., a Children’s Powwow (Tiny Tots) was held to give all the young ones a chance to experience dancing with the group. Soboba Elders had prepared backpacks filled with goodies to present to them after they had danced and completed the circle.
Marian Chacon said about 60 bags were filled at a recent Elders meeting with candy, popcorn, games, drinks, coloring books and other items.
“We just want the children to know we appreciate them,” said Chacon, of Soboba. “It’s important to recognize them for carrying on our traditions.”