Sycuan Pow wow 2011

By Roy Cook

It is that time of the season when everything is in balance. It is a time of harmony and equinox. This is a beautiful Sycuan day. This is a beautiful night. There is a magnificent moon in the sky over Sycuan. Hold this vision of beauty and picture also the most beautiful people on this hemisphere. Native American, Indian, Indigina, Ipai, Tipai, Kumeyaay, Luiseno, Cupa, Cahuilla and many other Tribes were represented. This annual gathering is the platform for many other events culminating this summer weekend pow wow: September 9, 10, 11, 2011. A major focus is the traditional occasion for the summer Tribal culture, art, music, games and introduction to new and familiar friends. Around the arena international and local elders are respectfully accessible. This is tribal self determination in action. It is a celebration promoting trial pride, hospitality and generosity. This is part of the continuing saga that is the local Kumeyaay Tribal custom and tradition.

Much of this Sycuan celebration has a local Kumeyaay prominence. Throughout the day from the raising of the Veterans’ memorial flags, the evening activities and into the late night there are presentations of local Bird singing and opportunities for Peon, traditional gaming. Additionally, there are constant shuttles for those who would like to visit the Sycuan Tribal Casino.


The Southern California and River Bird songs are thousands of years old. Yet, I believe, Sycuan was the first to host a public Bird dance completion. Not too many years ago, social opportunities to enjoy these songs were mostly at Fiestas or ‘by invitation only’ gatherings. Sadly, too often I have over heard comments on Bird Singing from outside observers to the Tipai-Kumeyaay culture, “They are all chants and sound alike.” also “They just go back and forth, over and over.” Yet, to the informed, these songs are a sweet sophistication of multiple related songs. The lead singer may or may not elect to bring out double step, or triple step songs, spins, turns. Facing the Singers the dancers will often assemble, mostly female, and guided by the gourd rattle and song join in the presentation. The dancing is often inspired by the moment and song selection of the lead singer.


Also, before the pow wow begins is the Warriors’ Western Gourd dance. There was a splendid representation in the Western Gourd Dance by: the Golden State Gourd Society, Arizona Gourd Society and American Indian Warriors Association.  In the arena the dancers are veterans of many military combat conflicts: World War Two, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and many other more recent and current conflicts. Glorious Gourd dance songs were sung from the side of the circle. This is a very emotional experience and truly special each time we enter this Gourd Dance circle.

Each day there were four eagle staffs at the grand entry of the pow wow. Three were visible and carried by selected respected elders, Saginaw Grant and Danny Tucker, Sycuan Tribal Chairman. The fourth was over head carried by our ancestors; hovering and constantly vigilant, like the eagle, looking out for the people.

The Sycuan Head staff selected for this year are: Walter Ahhaitty, Arena director, John Lorentz, Head Dance judge also MJ Bull Bear Head Dance judge, Luke Whiteman, Head drum judge, Head ‘lame dog joke teller’ Dennis Bowen, Master of ceremonies.

Head dancers: Randy Edmonds, Head Gourd dancer, Clifton Goodwill, Head Northern Man dancer, Nitanis Kit Large, Head Northern Woman dancer, Lewis Perkins, Head Southern Man dancer, Raytava Lynne Yazzie, Head Southern Women dancer, BJ Jackson, Head Young Man dancer, Rachel Landry, Head Young Women dancer.  Beautiful songs came from the Host Northern drum, Bad Nation and the Host Southern drum, Thunder Hill.

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Sycuan pow wow attendees have a free seat at our finest entertainment in the modern Native American pow wow world. This is a premier event, a gem in the crown of Southern California: the public is welcome, free hosted presentations of American Indian diversity and traditional culture.

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The Sycuan Tribal Elders said it best, “Our culture is the driving force and foundation of our existence. It is a way of life that is our obligation to pass on to our children and grandchildren. We are humbled to welcome the many dancers and artisans that have traveled many miles to be here with us. We are especially happy to extend this welcome to the many visitors that have never experienced our pow wow before.

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With respect to our people, our land and our traditions, enjoy this weekend as you make new friends and memories. Finally, we hope that you will carry in your heart a piece of our sacred ways that you may share with your children. Mai’ha mepasho. Ahan kanam. E’Yaay a’han! Pii’wa!”

May the Creator guide and protect you always. Have a safe journey. Thank you! Blessing!