Soboba hosts ‘People of the West’ Inter-Tribal Pow Wow

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Pow wow dancers from across the nation gather at the Soboba Indian Reservation for the Soboba Inter-Tribal Pow Wow. Shane Gibson photo

The Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians hosted its 23rd annual Payomkawichum “People of the West” Inter-Tribal Pow Wow, Saturday, Sept. 21. Although it used to be held at the reservation near San Jacinto, it was relocated this year to The Oaks football stadium and condensed from three days into one.

Dancers, drummers and singers from throughout California, several other western states and Canada seemed to enjoy the more intimate setting and spent time visiting with each other.

Tom Phillips of Manteca served as the master of ceremonies and opened the event that included 30 categories of dance contests that ranged from Juniors from age 7-12 through Golden at 55-plus. Having hosted pow wows for about 50 years, Phillips said he loves being with the people and educating them about Native American culture and protocols. He said the biggest change with the shortened event was to make sure the timing of things was on point.

“We have good arena directors, and our judges and singers know we’re on a time schedule, so they keep things moving,” Phillips said. “The (Soboba Pow Wow) committee is very involved, and we appreciate that they are always there to help and give us encouragement. That’s one of the strengths of a good pow wow – and a good sound system, which they also have here.”

Pamela James of Moreno Valley has been on the committee for more than 10 years. She also participates as a jingle dancer. She said combining a three-day event into one and changing locations did have some logistical challenges.

“But the most important thing is to make dancers feel welcome; they are our best marketing agents when they leave here – if they were treated well, they will let others know,” James said.

Grass Dancer Peter Joe Olney and his wife, Fancy Shawl Dancer Audrey, traveled from Yakima, Washington, to compete in the event. They have attended a few times. He said they have both been dancing for about 50 years and attend about 125 pow wows per year.

“We really like the atmosphere and the warmer weather here,” Olney said. “Some of the best dancers in Indian Country come here to dance.”

Before the first Grand Entry at 1 p.m., a Children’s Powwow for Tiny Tots was held to give all the young ones a chance to experience dancing with the group. Soboba elders had prepared backpacks filled with goodies to present to them after they had danced and completed the circle.

Marian Chacon of Soboba said about 60 bags were filled at a recent elders meeting with candy, popcorn, games, drinks, coloring books and other items.

“We just want the children to know we appreciate them,” Chacon said. “It’s important to recognize them for carrying on our traditions.”