Village News - Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Vibrant powwow held at Mission San Luis Rey


Last updated 6/14/2007 at Noon

Echoing drums and haunting Indian chants filled the air as toddlers, seniors and all ages in between came to Mission San Luis Rey to celebrate their various cultures and spiritual persuasions with ceremonial dances and songs. The vibrant notes of the drums would rise to a crescendo, then flatten to a softer tone.

The outfits worn were traditional tribal garb complete with sacred feathers, rainbow-colored beads, bells and tooled leather. One dancer had twenty thousand beads on each shoe! Elaborate and intricate headpieces, some adorned with feathers and beads, were worn by participants.

The Master of Ceremonies emphasized the fact that these traditional outfits are not “costumes.” “No way is this entertainment,” he commented. “This is spiritual.” He also noted that the sacred feathers are only to be worn by tribal members. To add to the spiritual intonations, the drums were stilled and the crowd was silent as a hawk flew overhead.

Young and old alike were enthralled by the 11th Annual Luiseño Inter-Tribal Powwow. The event, which drew Indian participants and spectators from several different American tribes, was held on June 9 and 10. The non-Native American community also responded, as thousands came to watch the dancers, browse the handicraft and jewelry booths and stand in long lines for a chance to sample delicious Indian Fry Bread and Indian Tacos. The scent of Indian Tacos wafted through the air and mingled with ceremonial incense to create an unmistakable powwow scent.

Saginaw Grant, of the Sac-n-Fox, Iowa and Otoe-Missouria Nations, drew more than the usual comments from the audience. One woman, noticing his regal bearing, commented, “I wonder if he is a chief.”

Grant, who served as the head dancer, had jingling bells and colorful garb. However, it was not his regalia that drew the attention but his demeanor. Solemn but expressive, he exuded an air of spirituality from his leathered and lined face that was not charisma but something deeper.

It is easy to see why this man is a sought-after actor who has played a medicine man, tribal chiefs and even a spirit in many movies and television shows. I think that it is a case where not much acting has to occur. I watched him eat an ice cream cone and even during this ordinary act he emanated strength and a quiet confidence.

Grant led the “social dance” time, side-stepping in a circle with Sonja Flores of Pala, who is Cupeño. With bells jingling and feathers swaying, Indians joined hands with guests in street clothes, cameras flopping at their sides, as they danced in a circle to the reverberating rhythm of the drums. It was a sound that has been heard in this area for well over a thousand years – and as the drum beats rose to the sky, somewhere a hawk was still circling, a symbol that these traditions are as strong and as everlasting as the wind.

Upcoming Powwows

Fourth Annual

Powwow by the Sea

Imperial Beach Pier Plaza

June 16-17

(619) 429-6621

12th Annual 2007

Pechanga Powwow

45000 Pechanga Parkway


June 29-July 1

(951) 770-2523


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