My first summer living in California, I had an opportunity to attend a Native American Powwow event at Pechanga Resort Casino. It was a beautiful gathering uniting people paying homage to their heritage, sharing their traditions and expressing themselves through song and dance unlike anything I had ever seen before. Along with the drummers, singers, dancers and fireworks, there was an entirely new to me culinary experience as well.
Introducing fry bread. This light and fluffy bread sprinkled with cinnamon and spread with butter was still warm from being fried and mouthwatering to say the least. Though it’s a simple food similar to an unsweetened funnel cake, Indian fry bread symbolizes a quite complicated culture. It is seen by many as a symbol of Native pride, unity, perseverance and also a story of survival. The Federal government actually prohibited inter-tribal gatherings through the 19th century, and now, as proud expressions of Indian identity, today’s powwows are partly a reaction against that suppression. I am happy to have experienced their culture by literally tasting it, but the sights I saw during the powwow elevated this outing far beyond my imagination.
While observing the dancers in various categories, I couldn’t help but notice a certain significance to the types of outfits worm by men, women and children. Every detail was intentional, from the feathers and paint to the smallest of beads, it all signifies something important. I took it upon myself to learn more about the meaning behind their dress from this article by See California.
And without further ado, I give you a feast for the eyes from the powwow hosted by Pechanga in 2015.