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Three Rivers marks 32 years of powwow celebrations
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A 32-year tradition perpetuated by the Three Rivers Indian Lodge in Manteca is again taking place this weekend starting on Friday.
That tradition is the Fourth of July Powwow.

Three Rivers actually has been a part of the Manteca community for the last 35 years, but the first powwows were held in Stockton. All subsequent celebrations were later hosted by the nonprofit Native American drug- and alcohol-treatment facility located on a three-acre piece of property on Union Road about a mile north of Lathrop Road.

The event attracts up to a thousand people every year, many of them coming from as far as Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“They will come when they hear about our powwow because a lot of our people travel to go to well-established powwows this time of the year throughout the country. They make our powwow a part of their travel’s (itinerary),” explained Three Rivers Indian Lodge executive director Ramona Valadez.

“We look at a powwow as a social thing, to bring our native people together so that we can share our culture with other non-native and native people. It’s a way how we socialize,” she said.

Valadez, who grew up in Oklahoma but moved to California after her military husband returned from Vietnam and received his honorable discharge from the service in the Bay Area, is a Comanche both on her mother and father side. However, she does not know how many different tribes are represented at any given powwow because “we don’t keep track of that,” she explained.

“We don’t ask them; we just leave it open and free to the public. But it’s anybody’s guess. There are well over 500 tribes in the country. California holds the largest number of tribes with over a hundred,” she said.

In keeping with their Native American powwow tradition, this weekend’s event will be free to the public with no admission fee asked at the gate. The other thing offered for free at this event is the traditional meal.

“We feed the public because it is our custom to give meal to the people who come here to share. They are all guests and so they can share the evening meal with us free of charge,” Valadez said.

“We provide vendors in case anybody likes Native American arts and crafts,” she said.

In addition to the arts and crafts booths, there will be information booths featuring various nonprofit organizations such as the Veterans Administration, the San Joaquin AIDS Foundation, California TANF, Family Connection Foster Care, and Washo TANNF. The California TANF, explained Valadez, is a “welfare-to-work organization that helps needy Native American families.”

This year’s theme is Honoring the Family. They chose to focus the celebration on the family because “we’re looking at 32 years that we’ve put on this powwow for the community, so we want to honor the family,” Valadez said.

Camping facilities are offered, but since spaces are limited, they are being offered on a first-come, first-served basis for a donation of $10 for each space. Guests are invited to bring their lawn chairs.

In addition to the arts and crafts and Native American food, there will be dance exhibitions. Featured this year are Robert Leroy (Head Man), Smoke Johnson (Head Woman), Rockin’ Horse (Southern Drum), Northern Eagle (Northern Drum), Dennis Plumley (Gourd dancing), and Danza Azteca Cuauhponal (Aztec). Program and dance competition emcee will be Erik Kimple with Henry Johnson as the arena director. Other highlights will be a “hand drum contest, winner takes all,” plus raffles.

Event schedules for the three-day weekend celebration are as follows:
•Friday, July 3 – 6 to 11:30 p.m. starting with the Grand Entry at 7 p.m.
•Saturday, July 4 – 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. with Grand Entry ceremonies at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.
•Sunday, July 5 – 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. with Grand Entry at 1 p.m.
Three Rivers Indian Lodge is located at 13505 North Union Road. For more information, call (209) 858-2421 or visit  HYPERLINK “”
As always, the powwow is a drug- and alcohol-free event.

To contact Rose Albano Risso, e-mail  HYPERLINK “” or call (209) 249-3536.