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‘Sharing our Culture’: Ft. Indy Tribe presents long-awaited pow wow

September 20, 2012

Dancers participate in Bishop Paiute Tribe’s 2011 Indian Days Celebration and Pabanamanina Pow Wow. This weekend, Sept. 21-23, dancers will similarly congregate at Fort Independence, for the Fort Independence Paiute Tribe’s first pow wow in nearly 30 years. Photo by Darcy Ellis


The Fort Independence Paiute Tribe invites everyone to enjoy feasting and fun, contests and celebration and, of course, drumming and dancing in its long-awaited, resurrected pow wow.

After a nearly 30-year hiatus, the three-day-long 2012 Fort Independence Winne-dumah Pow Wow is back and will be “free and open to the public,” said Tribal Historical Preservation Officer Priscilla Naylor. It will be held at the Fort Independence Tribal Campgrounds, just 2.5 miles north of Independence on U.S. 395. “Be sure to bring your own chairs and shade,” said Naylor.

Why has the 140-member Fort Independence Paiute tribe waited so long to pow wow again? “I don’t know,” said Naylor, “but it takes certain people to bring things to light, to get started again. And some of us are just starting to get back home.” Naylor herself recently moved back home from Southern California.

Pow Wow inspiration came to Naylor’s son, Tribal Chairman Israel Naylor, at the beginning of the year. He presented the idea at a tribal council meeting, Naylor explained, and the council responded with an enthusiastic ‘“Let’s have a pow wow’ and that’s how it all started.” That enthusiasm spread –   folks from South Dakota, Oklahoma, Nevada, Arizona and all over California will come to pow wow, said Naylor.

Native Americans from different tribes have an opportunity to really “share our historic customs and traditions, our cultural heritage,” with one another as well as with other pow wow guests, said Naylor; it is an important way to keep the ancestral past alive. Naylor said,  “I hope that everyone enjoys themselves … that tribal people are united, that its families gather and possibly see new dancers. Bringing in dance groups from the other side of the mountains (can) bring together extended family.”


Activities begin at 9:30 a.m. to  celebrate California Native Day, said Naylor, who also serves as Pow Wow co-coordinator.

After the blessing of grounds by Monty Bengochia, registration starts at 10:30 a.m. for: women’s beaded collar contest; youth and adult hand drum contests; men’s baby dance performance led by Bishop tribal member Raymond Hunter; youth rabbit dancers led by Bengochia; and women’s ribbon dancers led by tribal member Margaret Romero.

Free barbecued buffalo (burgers and hot dogs) will be served at 4 p.m. The Tunapi,  or eating house, located on the campgrounds, will also be open for food purchases throughout the weekend.

California Native Day  drumming and round dances will continue after dinner. “We’ll stop at 10:30 p.m. to show respect for our neighbors,” explained Naylor.

By the way, 16 vendors will host information booths and display their wares all weekend, with offerings such as  cedar beads, pillows, bead work, turquoise and silver, drums and sage salve.


Fun/run participants can register at 8 a.m. at the Wellness Station, off of U.S. 395 across from the campground.

At the same time, for those who like a more leisurely pace, said Naylor, there will be an interpretive walk guided by Naylor, Pow Wow Co-coordinator John Scruggs, Stephanie Stephens and other Pow Wow committee members. This permanent interpretive trail, created by   Stephens, is like a story about Fort Independence tribal origins and history, explained Naylor. 

At 11 a.m., host drum Red Hawk Warrior will begin performing. Dancers and other drummers are invited to join them. 

Bengochia will lead prayers and songs at 12:30 p.m. The 1 p.m., grand entry brings with it dancing and other activities like giveaways. Dancer and historian Kelly Looking Horse from Bates, S.D. will provide background on the meanings and origins of the different styles of dancing.

Head Man Jeff Davis, a Big Pine Paiute tribe member, and Head Woman Charlene Redner, of the Bishop Paiute Tribe, will emcee giveaways. And Naylor’s grandchildren, 5-year-old Sage Bear Crowbear and Keiha Crowbear, a 3-year-old jingle dress dancer, will host the tiny tot giveaways. Naylor added that Sage Bear’s image  will be on the Pow Wow T-shirt, which bears the slogan  “Sharing our Culture.”  

Dancer registration will be from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Each dance is different, said Naylor. For example, in the Switch Dance, men dance women’s roles and women dance men’s roles. The Potato Dance is “a fun dance where two dancers start out holding a potato between their foreheads while turning and doing steps … And that potato doesn’t stay there … Sometimes it ends up in someone’s eye,” said Naylor.

Saturday only, at 3 p.m. the Miwok Dancers, from Sheep Ranch in Stockton, will perform. Shingle Springs Chumash tribe member and psychologist Dr. Art Martinez will preside over the performances as the pow wow arena director.

The dinner bell will chime  at 4 p.m., announcing a free feast of “beef and antelope, pine nut rabbit stew, fry bread and all the rest of the goodies,” said Naylor. 

After dinner, the pow wow circle begins again with more round dancing, drumming and activities until 10:30 p.m. Then, the rousing event will mellow out with “quiet activities,” explained Naylor, as folks “gather around the fire pit for cake and ice cream  songs and storytelling.”


 The Pow Wow will continue at 11 a.m. with announcements, gift and awards presentations and thank-yous. 

Regular Pow Wow activities resume with the 1 p.m. grand entry, closing at 3:30 p.m. when the weekend’s events come to a close.

Naylor said that, in the spirit of hospitality, dancers and vendor participants going to the Pow Wow in Bishop (Sept. 28-30) the following weekend are invited to stay at Fort Independence Paiute campground free of charge with amenities like showers, electrical and water hook-up and nearby Fort Independence Casino’s store and dining at 135 N. Hwy. 395.

For more Pow Wow information, e-mail or or call Scruggs, Stephens or Naylor at the tribal office, (760) 878-5160. Naylor can also be reached at (760 258-5546.

During the week of Sept. 24, Looking Horse will facilitate legend storytelling and dream catcher and hand drum making workshops and at the Fort  Independence Community Building. For more information, call the tribal office at (760) 878-5160.

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