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Breathing life into tradition
The Quechan people breathed life into their traditions Saturday during the 30th annual Pow Wow presented by the Strong Hearts Native Society at San Pasqual.
The boom of drums, the chants of drum groups, the jingle of dresses and the savory smell of Indian fry bread combined to welcome visitors, both non-native and Native American, from all over the country.
Visiting tribes who came to celebrate Native dance and song included Kiowa, Comanche, Apache, Hopi, Navajo, Dakota, Lakota, Cheyenne and Yute.
They participated in dances like the Gourd Dance, Grass Dance, Fancy Dance, Jingle Dance, Buckskin Dance, Men's Northern Straight Dance and Southern Straight Dance.
"This pow wow is a celebration of our Indian people," said Pat Pacheco, a member of the Sioux, Lakota and Pueblo tribes who came to Winterhaven to emcee the event.
"This weekend at this pow wow we are honoring our elders here from the Quechan Reservation, and it is put on by the San Pasqual High School students. We are having singing and dancing contests here, and the Quechan are sharing their wealth with the other nations. Some people come a long ways and support their families through dancing and singing."
Pacheco said he was enjoying the good weather during the afternoon.
"It's very nice, and there is a little cloud cover. We always pray for good weather, but its up to Creator. If he wants it to be hot or cool or clouds, that's up to Creator."
Pacheco said it is very important to honor heritage and culture.
"We come together just to celebrate and have a good time. We are not hostile people. We are good people."
Ferdinando Salazar, a 22-year-old member of the Navajo and Pueblo people, was at the pow wow to dance.
"I am dressed as a Northern Traditional Dancer, which comes from the Plains area," he said. "It is a warrior's dance. After a warrior came back from battle, it tells the story of what they just went through and they earned their feathers that way."
Salazar was wearing many feathers, each given to him by tribal elders. He said it is essential to wear traditional clothes and travel to pow wows across the country.
"I think it is really important to keep the tradition going for the younger generation and keep it going for many more years. I've been dancing since I was 3 years old. I enjoy it."
Salazar said dancing is a very personal experience.
"I just listen to the drum, listen to my heart and let my feet do the work. I basically phase everything else out while I'm out there. I listen to the music and just go."
Salazar said it is possible to have visions or spiritual journeys while on the field.
"It happens. You get to thinking, and you see stuff you think you will see later in your life."
Sasha Nerva, the 2009-2010 Miss Quechan, looks forward to the pow wow every year. "I like to see the different dancers come from all the different nations. I'm especially excited when we host it."
Nerva participates in the Bird Dance, which is very special to the Quechan. The dance is done in correlation to the Bird Songs. Each of the songs refers to an incident in a myth or factual event. Unlike other Native American dances, Bird Songs do not involve drum groups but rather a gourd filled with palm seeds that provide rhythm.
"I am a bird dancer, and that is strictly what I dance," Nerva said. "Sometimes I get nervous but it is exciting. I like to share my culture with other people, which is why I am excited when we host it, especially with all our winter visitors who like to see our culture and share with us."
Nerva said she appreciates every non-native and Native American involved in the pow wow. "I want to thank everybody who came, and my family and friends for their support during my reign."
The pow wow continues Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Event organizers said if the weather turns sour, it will not be canceled but will be held in the gymnasium instead.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: San Pasqual Valley Unified School District Pow Wow
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: 676 Baseline Road in Winterhaven
COST: $7 adults; $4 for juniors, ages 11 to 17; children 10 and under free
**Click here for more pow wow photos: http://www.yumasun.com/sections/slideshow/?id=2490877