OCEANSIDE — The Intertribal Powwow hosted by the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians drew thousands of spectators and more than 30 different Indian nations to the grounds of Mission San Luis Rey on June 12 and June 13. “Cherokee, Comanche, Kiowa, they’re all here,” Al Cerda Jr., member of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians, said.
The San Luis Rey Band has held powwows since the 1800s. “It signifies the most important event we have,” Carrie Lopez, advisor of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians, said.
It is the only powwow in California held on mission grounds.
Tribes participate in the grand entry ceremony, friendship dance and song and dance competitions. All dances take place in the performance arena that is squared to the west and has drummers in the north, south, east and west corners of the arena.
Two days of competition are organized by performers’ age and ability level and give dancers and singers an opportunity to demonstrate their skills and honor their tribes. “New moves are added (to the dance), but there’s protocol, they need to stay in beat with the song and the jingles have to move together,” Cerda said.
The powwow aims to showcase tradition, teach youth and allow the community at large to enjoy the rich Native American culture. “Native people can gather, share customs and learn from elders,” Cerda said.
“It’s not just history, it’s a living legacy,” Lopez said.
A close-knit “family” of food and craft vendors sells fry bread, snacks and handmade crafts during the two-day event. Many of the vendors return to sell their crafts year after year. James Hermes of Indio and his family have been selling handcrafted western art at powwows and rodeos for more than 10 years. Among the handmade items he sells are dream catchers that are used to trap bad dreams and hold onto good dreams and spirit feathers to award military service and civil duty. “It’s part of the way we were raised, to make and continue the craft,” Hermes said.
The San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians that hosts the powwow is still unrecognized as a tribe by the United States. “Unfortunately the government hasn’t recognized a lot of tribes,” Cerda said.
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