Powwow brings tribes from across the Southwest

Powwow brings tribes from across the Southwest
Crowds turn out and join in the dance during the Inter-Tribal Powwow at the Mission San Luis Rey. Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — Native American tribes from across the Southwest gathered for the 16th annual Inter-Tribal Powwow held at Mission San Luis Rey and hosted by the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians on June 9 and June 10. 

“There are quite a few tribes from New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Southern California who have attended for the last six or seven years and wouldn’t miss it,” Carmen Mojado, secretary of the council of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians, said.

Tribal dancing, drumming and singing took place both days and were emceed by Randy Pico of the Luiseño Tribe and Pechanga Tribe.

Dance competitions included the fancy shawl dance, the jingle dance and the chicken dance. There was also the candy dance for children and the inter-tribal dance, in which everybody is invited to participate.

The opening precession, held on both days, was an impressive event in which all tribes participated.

Feathered and beaded regalia worn by dancers is individually handmade.

In addition to ceremonial dances, an array of booths sold food, jewelry and artisan crafts.

Mojado said event spectators should not be afraid to ask questions if they want to learn more.

“Ask anyone drumming or anyone there,” Mojado said. “Everyone is willing to talk and willing to share.”

The San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians is part of the Luiseño Tribe.

“Other tribes are better known because they have casinos and reservations,” Mojado said. “We weren’t fortunate enough to get a reservation.”

The annual powwow helps the band remember their heritage, teach their children traditions and share their culture with the community.

“It’s a critical tradition of Oceanside,” Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said. “It brings all the tribes together and keeps the history alive.”

This year the former Peyi Hall, first named after one of the mission founders Father Antonio Peyri, was renamed Pablo Tac Hall to honor the Indian scholar. Tac was born on mission grounds in 1820 and due to his exceptional intelligence was taken to Italy by Peyri to study at the College of the Propaganda in Rome. Tac died in Italy in 1841.

“It was a big gesture of acknowledgement,” Mel Vernon, captain of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians, said.

Today there are about 580 members of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians. Many live locally in Oceanside, Vista and Escondido.

“We all come together to help put on this powwow,” Mojado said.

Tribes host powwows across the United States from around February to December. Tribes also hold New Year’s gatherings.

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