By ROSE ALBANO RISSO
The Fourth of July Powwow, a summer celebration that Three Rivers Lodge in Manteca launched in the late 1970s, is set for Friday, June 28, until Sunday, June 30. The three-day event will be held at the facility’s site on North Union Road about a mile from Lathrop Road.
As has been the tradition for the last 42 years, the powwow will begin on Friday evening with gourd dancing at 7 p.m. followed by bear dancing at 10:30 p.m. Saturday’s highlights will be the two colorful Grand Entry festivities where participants from various tribes throughout California, and some from other parts of the country, show off their handmade tribal attires in full display while they perform their own traditional dances around the circular tent-covered arena. In some cases, participants are entire families — parents along with their children wearing intricate regalia that they themselves made. The first Grand Entry will begin at noon, with the evening ceremony set from 7 o’clock until 10 p.m. Sunday’s festivities will be from 1 p.m. until closing time at 5:30 p.m.
The grand entries provide a visual sampling of the dance contests that immediately follow. Three Rivers staff member Toni Eisenga explains what the contests entail which are divided between male and female dancers. Within each contest are three categories upon which participants are judged.
The following are the categories in the female dance competitions: jingle dress, fancy shawl featuring a shawl draped over the shoulders representing a butterfly, and traditional in which the dancer’s attire can be a cloth or buckskin. Usually, the outfit is beaded, explained Eisenga.
These are the categories in the men’s dance competitions: grass dancer, fancy bustle, “sometimes chicken dance,” and traditional northern and southern dancer.
Winners receive cash awards.
“What we try to do is to have two judges; they can’t be related with the dancers,” said Eisenga who was a Three Rivers volunteer for a number of years before becoming a regular staff. She comes from a tribe in Wisconsin called Ho-Chunk, “or Ho-Cak,” formerly known as Wisconsin Winnebago Tribe.
While the dance competitions are going on, visitors are welcome to enjoy the Indian tacos prepared by Three Rivers Lodge staff and volunteers. This is a fundraiser held during this annual summer event with proceeds used to benefit the nonprofit organization’s drug- and alcohol-treatment programs. Visitors can also browse through a number of Native American jewelry, shirts, purses, and other similarly themed items which are available for purchase.
Powwow is open to the public;
draws up to 3,000 visitors a day
“We believe in a lot of diversity, and this is a way for us to share our (Native American) culture... and to bring communities together. Any event like this, we usually share with the public and we invite all people to come,” said Three Rivers Lodge executive director Ramona Valadez of the annual summer powwow.
She invites visitors to “bring their appetites” for their popular Indian tacos, and to “bring their own chairs because seating is really limited and we get really crowded.”
Most important of all, “we ask that no alcohol or drugs of any kind are brought on site,” she said.
Powwow participants come from all over the state, with some coming from Alaska and Hawaii, Valadez said. They have also hosted a few prominent Native American guests to this local event. Among them were Dennis Banks, a Native American activist, teacher, and author who died two years ago. Last year, Valadez said, Native American character actor, dancer, motivational speaker and the Hereditary Chief of the Sac and Fox Nation Saginaw Grant attended the powwow celebration.
Reigning as Three Rivers Lodge Powwow princess this year is Sage Hackett, from the Lakota Nation.