Rancheria powwow honors vets, elders
|James Johnson, from Reno, dances during the Intertribal and contest dancing. Photos by Jordan Clary|
May 29, 2012 — Remembrance, honor and respect lay at the heart of Susanville Indian Rancheria’s (SIR) third annual powwow May 18-20.
The purpose of the powwow, said Madeline McIntire, one of the organizers, “Is to honor our veterans and our elders. At the same time it’s the opportunity to re-enhance our culture, and teach our young ones our traditions, so they, in turn, can pass them on.”
Understanding the culture is more than just learning the meaning of the dance, but learning to honor the dance floor and the people who put it together as well.
It’s being aware of the symbolism and the correct use and respect for the feathers.
Tribal member Ike Lowry said, “Eagle feathers are very sacred and powerful to Indian people. Because the eagle flies highest, it sees the true nature of things. You can’t hide anything from the eagle.”
|Josetta Wahwasuck, a Potawatonei from Washington, won second place, during the intertribal and contest dancing Saturday night.|
Dave Comer, who designed the graphics for the powwow’s promotion and brochure, said even the material used for the dance regalia held significance, such as an outfit worn by Michael Kane from Reno made of woven sagebrush roots. Comer said its use as part of the dance imbues it with complexity and meaning that goes beyond the surface. Kane’s sage regalia originally belonged to a member of his wife’s family and is at least 50 years old.
Dancers came from across the United States and Canada to participate in the powwow, each bringing colors and designs that reflect the culture and tradition of their respective tribes and giving the powwow a cross-cultural feel.
Among the veterans honored were mother and daughter tribal members, Nola Saldana Joseph and Arryawna Shyanne Saldana. Joseph served in the U.S. Navy; Saldana currently serves in the U.S. Air Force.
John Smith, a World War II veteran, was honored as the eldest vet. Gil Calac, who grew up in Susanville, carried in the eagle staff to bring in the dancers.
The eagle staff is considered the First Nation’s flag and, traditionally, a combat veteran, as a way to honor those who have fought and fallen in battle, carries it at the front of the procession.
The SIR eagle staff is kept on display at the Diamond Mountain Casino Hotel. An information sheet states, “From high aloft the eagle has the ability to see hidden truths, not just the material world. It represents great power, balance and dignity with grace with a connection to higher truths.”
Lorena Gorbet, from Greenville, did the bead and feather work which is representative of patterns on Indian baskets. An eagle talon, with four bald eagle feathers, symbolizes the Paiute, Maidu, Pitt River and Washoe tribes of the Rancheria as well as the four directions.Mink fur around the base of the staff provides a hold.
McIntire said, while this year’s powwow was specifically in recognition of WWII and Korean veterans, the sacrifices of all veterans are important to the community.
Amelia Luna, another powwow organizer, said they were pleased with the turnout. Even though the Susanville powwow is one of the smaller ones, its size lends a feeling of intimacy to the event.She and the other organizers mentioned the Blue Star Moms’ contribution was instrumental in the powwow’s success.
Observers of the dances spoke of the richness of color, the vibrancy and energy of the participants and the importance of the SIR to the overall culture of Lassen County.
“Something magical happens with a powwow,” said McIntire. “A lot of work goes into it, a lot of delegating responsibility. It might seem like nothing is going right, but then at the end, it all comes together beautifully.”
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