By Roy Cook
The Soaring Eagles ensemble was the featured cultural entertainment at the San Diego State University American Indian Studies Department thirty fifth year tributes: Looking backward-Looking forward. Additionally Honored is the first Chairman of the American Indian Studies Department, John C. Rouillard and the Rouillard family this past Thursday, 11/3/11 evening. All around the room familiar faces from memories treasures were smiling with the joy of seeing each other again after so many years and changes in the American Indian studies challenges and achievements. It has truly been 35 years of making a difference.
Our good friend, SCAIR Senior Advisor, Randy Edmonds was the opening Emcee for the evening festivities. He called upon Sam ‘Qui Qui’ Brown IV from the Los Conejos Band of the Kumeyaay to provide a blessing from the Creator. Randy spoke to the traditional spiritually of Tribal gatherings when the people assemble for social events. He also spoke of his association with the late John Rouillard in the San Diego urban American Indian community. Next the SDSU ROTC brought in the Colors for the combined purpose of Native American Month and Veterans Day week in San Diego. The San Diego Inter-tribal Singers sang an appropriate flag song and Veterans Honor song. They were pleased to have Henry Mendibles and Ral Christman join in at the drum with the singing for the Soaring Eagles.
Soaring Eagle youth and adults danced various pow wow dance categories and in unison demonstrated the skill and beauty of the regalia assembled in the past three years. The Soaring Eagle dance workshop continues to be under the wing of Ms Vickie Gambala since her change of status with the SDUSD this past June.
The Soaring Eagle dance troupe demonstrated: Northern Mans Traditional dance, Woman Jingle dance, Mans Grass dance, Ladies Shawl dance, Southern Women’s cloth and combined Inter-tribal songs for all to fill the arena and display the movement and beauty of the presences of the splendid regalia. As the final veterans and memorial songs were called for Ms Shirley Murphy came forth and sang an honoring song, in her Lakota language, for John Rouillard.
As many were enjoying the catered reception appetizers and beverages there were many heartfelt tributes of highpoints and challenges of working with John Rouillard. This is a memorial segment satisfying on many levels and lingering like a spoon of tasty stew lasting on the senses and warm to the humanity of the experience.
Keynote speaker, Kevin Gover Director of the American Indian museum-Smithsonian, reviewed the challenges of the Washington DC mall. He acknowledged the Kumeyaay exhibit and the plans for the realignment of the themes at the museum. He recalled the romantic focus of the past Smithsonian leadership while at the same time noting the work of early ‘Shadow Catcher’ Edward Curtis and many others that have shaped the images of the American national consciousness and knowledge of the American Indian people.
With many final hugs and exchanges of contact numbers the first day of this SDSU tribute came to an end with bright anticipation of the next day’s panels of scholars and community people: Health, Economic Development, Ancestral Languages, Sovereignty and Law and Education.