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3-day tribal gathering up to public
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• WHAT: 35th annual Three Rivers Powwow complete with traditional dances, ceremonies, vendors, and food
• WHEN: Friday, July 6, 6 to 11 p.m.; Saturday, July 7, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; and Sunday, July 8, noon to 6:30 p.m.
• WHERE: Three Rivers Lodge on North Union Road north of Manteca
• DIRECTIONS: The lodge on Union Road a mile north of Lathrop Road

Manteca’s annual Fourth of July tradition - the 35th annual Three Rivers Powwow - is getting a late start this year.

That’s because Independence Day fell midweek.

The traditional three-day gathering of Native Americans from all over California and other states is free to the public. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs. More than a dozen vendors will have booths during the powwow selling various Native American arts and crafts as well as food and drinks. The Three Rivers Lodge also will have its usual food booth where guests can purchase fried Native American tacos and drinks.

Events will begin on Friday, July 6, from 6 to 11 p.m. It will begin with the religious gourd dancing at 6 p.m. followed by the grand entry at 7 p.m., invocation and the singing of the Flag Song, the traditional song sung at the beginning of each powwow event. Friday’s opening ceremony is also the time introduction of guests as well as acknowledgements are made. This year’s emcee is Eric Kimple of Hayward.

Activities on Saturday, July 7, will be from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. As with Friday, the event will open with gourd dancing followed by the grand entry at noon. The rest of the day and the evening will feature dance contests in different categories. The same program will be followed on Sunday, July 8, with the hours from noon to 6:30 p.m. Grand entry will start at 1 p.m.

The reigning princess of the 2012 Fourth of July Powwow is Taylor Fountain of Brentwood.

Three Rivers Indian Lodge Director Ramona Valadez notes in California alone there are 114 tribes.

Each day of the three-day powwow will open with a gourd dance, as is the practice at every annual powwow. The rule for this part of the celebration is that no pictures of the dancers or dancing are allowed.

“It’s a spiritual thing. Those dances are sacred. You don’t record sacred things. No one wants their picture inside that box, or whatever the case may be, because it’s spiritual,” Valadez said.

Valdez said the tribal gathering is “very important because it’s time for native people in this community to come out and participate, and because our tradition is to share, we open it to the public to share our culture.”

“With the way the economy is, people are all so busy making a living, so we give them this chance to come out and enjoy the dancing and to see the people in their regalia, maybe even talk to some of them and to just learn what another culture is all about,” she pointed out.

“In the past 20 to 25 years, ever since they’ve gotten (Indian) casinos, (people) think that everybody who’s Native American comes from a casino tribe and they don’t need help because of all that money. And that’s not true. Not every Native American comes from a casino tribe. So there’s a huge misunderstanding,” Valadez said.

The Three Rivers Lodge, which is under the umbrella of Native Directions Inc., is a drug- and alcohol-abuse treatment facility for Native Americans. Participation is up to 90 days, followed by a stay at a half-way house. Funding comes from a variety of sources including government grants, plus private donations. It is for that reason the powwow is an alcohol- and drug-free event.