San Manuel Pow Wow returns as a celebration of culture, song and dance – San Bernardino Sun
By Tom Ramos | Pow Wow Coordinator, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
It is time to return to a sacred tradition.
After a two-year hiatus, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians is proud to once again host our 25th Annual Pow Wow at Cal State San Bernardino September 16-18. We are thrilled to be back and to be able to share an important celebration of Native American cultures and traditions with attendees and the public.
The San Manuel Pow Wow is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the power of longstanding traditions that keep communities strong. Since 1996, we have had the honor and privilege here in Southern California to host dancers, drum groups and artisans representing over 500 Indian tribal nations from across North America.
The custom of different tribes coming together to dance, sing, socialize and honor their cultures is part of our way of life. The powwow itself can be seen as an example of the resilience that indigenous tribes needed to maintain their customs in the face of oppressive laws that once limited the practice of our cultural traditions.
While the powwow is, on the one hand, a deeply spiritual and cultural occasion, it is also a joyful celebration that reflects the beauty and pageantry of Indigenous Nations. Men and women aged 18 to over 65 will show off their skills in a variety of dance styles this weekend.
It’s also a competitive event, and the San Manuel Pow Wow is one of the largest in the West, with participants competing for top prize money and recognition.
What can you expect when attending the San Manuel Pow Wow?
For many visitors, this may be their first up-close experience with Native American cultures. Attendees can see traditional singing, drumming and dancing, artisan vendors representing different tribal nations, authentic traditional Native American crafts, fine art and delicious food.
The event is free and open to all ages, and attendees will be immersed in a unique cultural experience. The celebration begins on Friday evening September 16, continues until Saturday evening and ends on Sunday. Seating in the stands is provided.
We ask people to come with an open heart, showing respect for each other and respect for all that San Manuel Pow Wow brings.
The event begins with a blessing of the lands and is followed by the singing and dancing of the birds. Birdsong is one of the oldest forms of singing in California, and the bird songs chosen for this gathering are often fun and festive.
A highlight is the grand entrance, a hallowed aspect of the ceremonies held multiple times throughout the weekend. Upon entry, attendees enter dressed in their finery, led by flag bearers who are often military veterans. An elder gives an invocation to bless the gathering, and spectators are asked to stand throughout the grand entrance and refrain from taking photos.
Then the dancing, drumming and singing begins! You will see many different types of dance, including Women’s Jingle Dress Dance, Men’s Traditional Northern Dance, Women’s Fancy Shawl Dance, and Men’s Chicken Dance, to name a few- one. There is even an audience participation dance where spectators are encouraged to join.
It is a sacred event, and respect is of the utmost importance. Spectators are encouraged to listen to the emcee for photo-taking and recording tips and to approach attendees and groups first to ask permission to take photos. If you have a question, please find event staff available outside the arena and gazebo (dance area and entrance).