A year ago, my father returned from one of his trucking trips raving about a pow wow. Well, what comes to mind when you think "pow wow"? Native Americans howling and dancing around a fire in feathery head dresses, feasting and enjoying themselves? Close, but not quite. This year, my father insisted that I attend the once a year pow wow in San Bernardino, California. Hundreds, if not thousands of people of native American descent gather from the far reaches of the contient, some all the way from Saskatchewan, Canada. In the parking lot I noticed license plates from Alberta and British Columbia too.
The regalia was absolutely immaculate. It is very difficult to put into words: bright colors, endless strands of tassels, feathers and beautiful beadwork. The most impressive part, though, is that they are all made by hand, pieced together by the natives themselves. Not a single costume was the same as another. So much time and labor is invested into the making of these costumes, formal wear, if you will, and no doubt the tradition has been passed on for generations upon generations. Mothers teaching daughters how to do beadwork, fathers teaching sons to do the dances. Not only were there dancing contests, but singing and drumming contests as well. It was an incredible experience, gratifying, and heartwarming to know that though most of the natives of this contient were slaughtered or given disease, that somewhere, someone is still preserving their culture, passing on what has always been passed on, before any white man ever set foot on the shores of America. The children dancing in their regalia were absolutely adorable. (Swoon over photos below.)
I also managed to pick up some jewelry (okay, how could I not pick up some jewelry. It's me, after all.) The jewelry that was being sold, like the regalia, was one of a kind. I tried on a few rings that caught my eye, but finally was drawn to a beautiful silver ring with two enormous white turquoise stones intertwined by silver feathers. I tried it on, and alas! It fit my finger! My mother purchased it for me as a going away gift, and I've only just now taken it off for the first time since then.
The very best part about the San Bernardino annual pow wow is that it is absolutely free! It is held in early to mid October every year on Cal State's San Bernardino campus. So really, if you want to say you've been to a real pow wow, go. It will blow your mind and you'll be glad you did it.