Soaring Eagle 2011 Pow wow: Twice is Nice

By Roy Cook


There is a quality of dualism in this second annual Soaring Eagle Pow wow gathering. For one glorious day we doubled up on the fun. Two Grand entries, two powerful sessions of Gourd dance, two variations of excellent entertainment: Tracy Nelson with his Rez Blues and the Hummingbird Aztec dancers. There was both a day and night sessions with lights. A generous dinner feast of excellent choices that everyone was invited to attend. Our Head staff and Soaring Eagle families hosted generous giveaways that had the children lined up and squealing with eagerness for the gifts and candy. Our senior advisor and Emcee, Randy Edmonds kept us all informed of the variations and sequence of the day’s activities. He was assisted by the Arena director Robert Gastelum and his Soaring Eagle assistant Steven Gloria. Most of all we need to acknowledge the determined efforts, for the second year, of Richard Orvedal. He devoted an entire day to prepare the arena for all to enjoy the event. The dance arena, also called an arbor.  It is blessed by an elder before the Pow Wow begins and is considered to be a respected area for the duration of the celebration.


At noon, this day June 4 2011, Eddie Rodriguez opened the event with a fine hour of flute music. He was followed by a stirring hour of local Southern California traditional songs. The Kumeyaay Bird singers: Paul ‘Jr’ Cuero, Louis Guassic and Ben Nance brought the first dancers into the arena. Around the arena there are frequently designated areas for spectators and most people bring lawn chairs. The front seats of the Arbor are for dancers, singers, and their families.  Elders are also given preferred places to sit.

wilburAt many Intertribal Pow Wows the Southern Plains tradition of the Gourd Dance is observed. Mr. Wilbur Solomon, Omaha, US Navy retired is our Head gourd dancer. This is a ceremonial dance done only by military veterans and members of certain warrior societies or clans. Songs were sung by the Red Warriors and are usually sung in sets of four, and the group participates in each song four times. Female auxiliary members, dance in support and behind the men in an outer circle. While the public is welcome to observe these proceedings, usually no photos or recordings of any kind are to be made unless announced by the Emcee.

entry nightentry

Looking at the Soaring Eagle day and evening: A typical one day Pow Wow that starts on Saturday has two Grand Entries, one in the afternoon and the other in the evening after a dinner break. Each dance session begins with a Grand Entry, a procession of dancers. The American Indian Warrior Association and others are the flag bearers. The staff carrier, Richard Decrane, is an honor usually given to a military veteran or a respected traditional dancer, or a traditional elder.  The Honor Color Guard lead in the procession including the Eagle Staff, American Flag, the MIA-POW flag and the flags of the military services.


Indian Royalty is next, consisting of tribal and organizational princesses and other dignitaries. The Head Dancers lead a single file procession of dancers arranged by category and age. Our Head staff are: Richard Parker Van Dyke, Sonia Flores, Balthazar ‘BJ’ Jackson. Jennette Hamilton-Keemee. Everyone is asked to stand during the Grand Entry and men should remove their head coverings unless it has an eagle feather.


After all the dancers are in the Arbor, a flag song is sung to honor the Eagle Staff and the flags. Then a respected person, usually an elder, offers a prayer. This is followed by a victory song during which the Eagle Staff and flags are placed in their standards. At this time the Master of Ceremonies will introduce the Head Dancers and Royalty. The Head Dancers are selected by their reputations as dancers and by their knowledge of their traditions and customs. They represent their particular style of dancing and serve as models to the rest of the dancers during the Pow Wow. Being selected as a Head Dancer is an honor. There are usually two, a man and a woman, but some of the larger Pow Wows also have a boy and a girl Head Dancer in addition to the adults.

The Host Drum is invited to hold that position at a Pow Wow based in their reputation and knowledge. They must be ready to fill in if there are any gaps in the drum order if another drum isn’t ready to sing. Some Pow Wows only have one Host Drum while others have as today, a Northern Host drum: Green River and a Southern Host Drum: Red Warriors. They were also joined by the Luiseno singers from Pala.


An Intertribal is a song that all dancers and some of the public may participate in. Everyone is welcome to dance the blanket dance. A Blanket Dance is done for a specific purpose usually to collect monetary contributions to defraying travel expenses of a drum or a special purpose. All are welcome to enter the arena to contribute and dance.

principals1This pow wow was a fine reflection of the devotion and dedication of Ms Vickie Gambala. Our appreciation for continued support to: Frank and Jennifer Gastelum, Richard Orvedal, Chris Scott, Mellisa Adleman, and Abel Jacome. The Soaring Eagle pow wow and program is all about the children. This day’s quality was evident in the initiative, joy, pride of tribal identity and participation from beginning to end of the parents and children of the Soaring Eagles. Thank you all for being there, mehan and Aho.