Pow wow pride

Native dancers keep traditions alive at Chico event

GRAND AFFAIR <br>Dakota Jeude, Paiute, dances in the Grand Entry event.

Dakota Jeude, Paiute, dances in the Grand Entry event.

Photo By Tom Angel

As rain gave way to sunny skies at 20th Street Community Park, dozens of dancers prepared for the Grand Entry dance, the official start of the Fifth Annual Chico Pow Wow. Distinguished elders adjusted their long, feathered headdresses, and toddlers wriggled as jewels were applied to tiny faces for the “tiny tots” competition.

Hundreds looked on as, clad in native dress, the dancers circled the large, grassy event center to the sound of increasingly louder drumbeats.

Some songs were ceremonial, others celebratory. But all had significant meaning, and participants came from as far away as Montana and New Mexico to share their traditions.

As Steve Santos, chairman of the local Mechoopda tribe, strolled the site, he was also readying himself to offer an invocation and welcome. “When you go to an area or a land, you pay honor to the Native Americans of the area,” he explained. In turn, he said, “It’s an honor to have them here.”

Crafts and merchandise booths included hand-carved flutes, Pendleton blankets and a sea of T-shirts with spectacularly subversive sayings, including the popular “Homeland Security” shirt referencing the invasive date of 1492.

For many of the indigenous people at the pow wow, it was a chance to celebrate their culture in a way that was once forbidden by the United States government.

As he introduced the gourd dance, arena director Shadowhawk mentioned that between 1880 and 1935, the federal government, acting out of ignorance and fear of the Plains Indians, made all cultural activities by Native Americans illegal.

“There was no dancing, no ceremonies, no songs,” he said. To keep their traditions alive, “people had to go underground.”

In recognition of the Native Americans who have been held captive by drugs or alcohol, the pow wow also had a sobriety theme, “Sober Nations,” and health-related booths set up along one edge of the park.











Angela Alvarez, Pit River-Ojibway, and Roxanne Gomez, Pit River, dance in the Grand Entry in which the Native Americans at the Chico Pow Wow shared their traditions. Announcer Shadowhawk didn’t overlook the fact that these dances were once forbidden by the U.S. government. “They were afraid of what they saw here when people would dance in a circle that way,” he said.

Photo By Tom Angel




















NEXT GENERATION <br>Teresa Wright, Yurok, helps 8-year-old son Amos Wright, Paiute-Yurok, prepare for the traditional dances. The Wrights traveled from Pyramid Lake to participate in the Chico Pow Wow.

Photo By Tom Angel




















VIP VETS <br>Vietnam veteran Wayne Arlee, of the Dakota tribe, carries the P.O.W. flag as part of the pow wow’s flag ceremony honoring vets. Arlee is from Ft. Yate, N.D.

Photo By Tom Angel




















Joseph Smith, Creek, is thanked for his service by Ahwehpeheli, 4, a Colusa resident of the Wintu-Pomo tribe.

Photo By Tom Angel




















GIVING THANKS <br>One of the most emotional moments came when Native Americans who fought for the U.S. in war time were presented with quilts handmade by Sue Sisk of Chico.

Photo By Tom Angel




















TACO TIME People lined up for Indian tacos as volunteers wearing “Got frybread?” aprons eased doughy discs into sizzling oil as fast as the assembly line could flatten them out. The secret, said Laurie Saragosa, Lakota, new to the craft, is to “handle with love of the hands.” That, and, “you’ve got to keep your hands dry.”

Photo By Tom Angel