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Pahrump Powwow showcases Native American culture

November is National Native American Heritage Month and there could be no better time in which to celebrate the vibrant culture of the country’s many Native American tribes.

Each year in the Pahrump Valley, November hails the coming of the Pahrump Intertribal Social Powwow, a gathering of the community and tribe members from a vast array of Native American nations, all coming together to share in the rich history and traditions of America’s first peoples. Taking place this past weekend, Friday, Nov. 19 through Sunday, Nov. 21, at Petrack Park, the Pahrump Social Powwow was an enormous success, with event organizers raving about the outcome and everyone already buzzing with excitement about the return of the event in 2022.

“We were truly blessed with such beautiful weather this year,” Pahrump Powwow Committee member Paula Elefante raved when all was said and done. “Over the years, we have experienced everything from hot and cold to wind, rain, and even a little snow but the weather this year was perfect.”

Elefante said the total turnout was estimated at upward of 1,000 people, noting, “Attendance was great and people were lined up six or seven deep to watch the dancers.”

Indeed, the Pahrump Valley Times witnessed this very scene on Saturday afternoon, with a throng of attendees completely encircling the dancing area, some sitting on bleachers, others on their own camp chairs and some even plopping right down onto the ground for the performances. The audience’s appreciation of the cultural outpouring was obvious as people chattered to one another, remarking upon the incredible array of regalia, the grace of the dancers themselves and the talent of the Northern and Southern Drums that were beating out the rhythms while interlacing their strong voices with the songs of their people.

There were many types of dancing for patrons to enjoy, with Elefante explaining, “The different styles of dance at the Powwow started with the Gourd Dancers, they are the Native American veterans, and then there were Aztec, Fancy, Traditional, Grass, Jingle Dress and Fancy Shawl dancers. Members from many different tribes were present at the Powwow, including Navajo, Sioux, Cherokee, Onondaga, Ojibwa, Apache, Shoshone, San Luiseno, Chumash, Nez Pierce, Apache Mescalero, Sac and Fox, Paiute and Ute, to name a few.”

In addition to all of the dancing performances, there were also contests for the younger tribe members, with three divisions, Teen Girls and Teen Boys ages 13 to 17, and Junior Boys and Girls ages six to 12, along with Tiny Tots, who competed in a variety of different dance styles. Even the attendees themselves were able to try out a few moves when they were invited into the circle to dance.

“The audience really enjoyed participating in the Round Dance and the Snake Dance with the Aztec Dancers and this year we had a Candy Dance for all of the kids. It’s like Musical Chairs, with the kids dancing around the circle while the drum is beating and when the drum stops, they all scramble to gather up candy,” Elefante said with obvious pleasure. “We had so many people stop by the Powwow booth to tell us how much they enjoyed the Powwow and that they would be back next year with their family.”

There were dozens of craft vendors at the Powwow this year, too, offering all sorts of merchandise, ranging from jewelry, pottery and art to blankets and jackets. There were also eight total food vendors on site, including two selling the ever-popular Indian frybread and Indian tacos, and a new corn vendor, each of which did steady business throughout the event. “All the vendors did well, and the food vendors were pretty much out of food by the end of Sunday,” Elefante remarked.

Storytelling was a big draw for Powwow patrons over the course of the weekend, with Powwow committee member Sue Zink taking on the role of official storyteller. “The stories shared in the Teepee were both oral and read from books,” Zink detailed. “I recited traditional oral stories like the lend of the snake that save the Sioux. I also read books I had collected while living on the Navajo reservation. These include: Monster Slayer, Coyote Tales, When Clay sings, The Flute Player, Tato (from Hawaii) Alaska Nights and more. People were encouraged to read the books on their own as well. These books and tales help non-natives peek into the culture of many different native tribes.”

Zink offered her knowledge to educate attendees on other aspects of Native American culture and life, as well, explaining, “There was also a binder I put together to help people identify their animal totem by their birth date and how their totem animal helps them. People really liked the maps which helped them to find tribes and homelands of our natives. The map of the reservations in the U.S. was a revelation to many. Lastly, adults and children loved making cards using stamps of symbols used in ancient messages in stone, which are known today as petroglyphs and are found in the mountains surrounding our valley.”

All in all, Elefante and her fellow committee members were quite pleased with the success of the event and those who took the time to head out to the park this weekend have been profuse with their positive feedback on the Pahrump Social Powwow’s Facebook page, something that brings additional satisfaction with each new comment.

In conclusion, Elefante made sure to offer her appreciation to everyone who worked so hard to bring the Powwow to Pahrump this year.

“I’d like to thank this committee and volunteers John, Ron, Manny, Pete, Bill, Jim, Kevin, Matthew, Jonathon, Bill, Tom, Jenna, Doris, Rose, Donna, Sue, Gayle, Barbara, Carlene, Laurie, Reva, Lorraine, Michelle and Trinity all did an amazing job of making the Powwow this year the success that it was. I could not do it without these amazing people,” Elefante said. “Also, we would like to thank our sponsors because without their support, we could not do this. Thanks to Pahrump Tourism, U.S. Bank, Dolan Ranch LLC., VEA, Crazy Calico, Quality Signs, Tin Hafen and Janet McJunkin, the Angeflami family, the Riveria family, the Hannah family, the Galbraith family, the Elefante family, Pahrump Nevada Genealogical Society and the Pahrump Springs Chapter NSDAR.”

Elefante is encouraging everyone to mark their calendars for next year’s event, which is slated for Nov. 18-20, 2022 at Petrack Park.

For more information on the Pahrump Intertribal Social Powwow email PahrumpPowwow@yahoo.com

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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