The 21st annual event will be September 15-17 ◆ By Mike Hiles
Drumbeats represent the heartbeat of the Native American people, dances signify healing, celebration and momentous occasions, the regalia colors and designs hold special meaning for the wearers. To learn about the traditions of indigenous people from across North America, visit the 21st annual Payomkawichum (People of the West) Soboba Inter-Tribal Powwow on September 15, 16 and 17. Open to the public, this family-friendly event offers free admission and parking and a chance to learn about Native American culture through an amazing visual and auditory experience.
Originally, a Powwow, or celebration as it used to be called, was held in the spring to welcome the new beginning of life. It was a time for people to get together, sing, dance, renew old friendships and make new ones, and a time for young people to meet and court. Powwows also held religious significance and were used as a time for families to hold naming and honoring ceremonies. The celebration was also a prayer to the Great Spirit. Competitive singing and dancing for prize money is a recent change to the traditional powwow. Throughout the weekend, many different competitions and customs will be shown through dances, songs and drum music at the Soboba Event Center. Contests bring out the best of the best among the hundreds that are expected to participate.
The annual powwow is marked by the Grand Entry of all participants on each day. These will be at 7 p.m. on Sept. 15, 1:30 and 8 p.m. on Sept. 16 and 1 p.m. on Sept. 17. Gourd Dances will be at noon on Sept. 16 and 17. Bird dancing and singing the songs that tell the oral history of the Cahuilla people of Southern California will be from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 16 only, with registration from 3 to 5 p.m. that day. Joe Ontiveros can be contacted at 951-664-5279 for further information.
Many vendors will be set up around the arena to provide food, handcrafted items and one-of-a-kind Native American keepsakes. The food court will offer Indian tacos, fry bread and other traditional dishes.
Masters of Ceremonies will be Tom Phillips, from the Southern Plains area, and Howie Thomson, from Canada.
"I love to work a powwow with smiles and laughter; I love to see and hear all the different styles of songs and dances. I travel anywhere to help out whenever I’m needed. Pina Miya (thank you)," Thomson said.
Each year the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians invites local elementary schools to bring students to the arena for an educational and informative two-hour preview of the powwow. This early morning opportunity provides an interactive lesson about the Native American culture they read about in classroom textbooks. Details and vendor applications are available at www.soboba-nsn.gov or by calling Andrew Vallejos at 951-654-5544, ext. 4112.
The Soboba Event Arena is an outdoor venue that is completely shaded. Handicap ramps with seating are available throughout. The address is 23333 Soboba Road in San Jacinto, next to the Soboba Casino.
Information, 951-654-2765 or www.soboba-nsn.gov.