Intertribal Powwow draws dancers, spectators

The Daily Courier/Matt Hinshaw<br>
A Camp Verde Apache crown dancer performs for the crowd Saturday afternoon.

The Daily Courier/Matt Hinshaw<br> A Camp Verde Apache crown dancer performs for the crowd Saturday afternoon.

PRESCOTT - Native Americans representing Indian nations from across the country converged at Watson Lake this weekend for the second annual Prescott Intertribal Powwow.

"This is a social powwow and not a competition powwow," said powwow committee member Vernon Foster, a member of the Klamath-Modoc nation. "Social powwows are for coming together. This is a way to interact with the people of Prescott and to educate our youth."

"Elders embracing youth" is the powwow theme.

Prescott Mayor Jack Wilson proclaimed June 15 to 22 Prescott Pow-Wow Week.

The three-day powwow started Friday night with American Indian dances, songs, music and socializing. Admission is free throughout the weekend with donations requested at the park gate.

Arts and crafts vendors, some traveling from out of state, are on the outskirts of the dance area. Money is not the object of this powwow, Foster said.

"We don't really think in terms of 'religion' but in the term 'spirituality,'" he said. "We believe that we are all related, we are all relatives of each other. That is why we want to help each other and wanted to focus on the children and teach them our traditional dances and songs."

Early Saturday morning children joined elders for a spiritual walk around Watson Lake.

The dance area is formed in a traditional American Indian circle. Spectators encircle the dancers. Teepees are outside the ring.

Because this is an inter-tribal powwow, customs and traditions of differing tribes intermingle with each other. A teepee is not a structure that Navajo, Hopi or Yavapai nations bring into play, but it is something the Lakota (Sioux) and other Plains nations use.

The different categories of dancing reflect the variety of tribes attending the powwow.

"We want to bring back the old values of dancing for fun," Foster said. "We hope to bring all the people together through dancing."

After the children's walk Saturday morning, grass dancers prepared the circular dance area. In historical times, Plains tribes such as the Lakota and Cheyenne needed grass dancers to flatten the tall grasses of the Great Plains in preparation for the dancers.

Other tribes have different pre-dance ceremonies and customs, explained Carrie Kills Enemy at Night. She said that historically, summer is for dancing and winter is for storytelling.

Vinie Little Man is a Navajo, or Dineh, drummer. He said he travels the "powwow trail" playing his drum at different powwows throughout the country.

Susie Vargas and her daughter Lena, 17, are Prescottonians who moved to Bagdad. Lena said she likes powwows because of the Native American culture and jewelry.

Along with the dancing, singing and craft booths, Native Americans taught classes to children and adults in making dream-catchers, medicine shields, petroglyph etchings and other traditional skills.

"We want to share teachings, stories and arts like they did in the old days," powwow chairman Robert Rice said.

Watson Lake is a good location for a powwow, Sandy Hanson said. She attended the first intertribal powwow last year at the Prescott Rodeo Grounds.

"This is really nice with the grass and the rocks and the lake around," she said. "The summer solstice is a very important time and it is really cool for them to be honoring the earth like this. This ceremony is for them (Native Americans) and is not just a spectacle for us to watch."

Rice said the powwow is a non-profit organization and gets its support from donations and sponsors. The powwow committee signed an agreement with the City of Prescott Parks and Recreation Department to hold all future powwows at Watson Lake.

"This powwow is going to be here every year," he said.

The intertribal powwow ends today around 6 p.m.

Contact the reporter at bcolbert@prescottaz.com