San Manuel Pow Wow returns to Cal State San Bernardino after hiatus due to pandemic

Rob McMillan Image
Saturday, November 5, 2022
San Manuel pow wow returns after hiatus due to pandemic
A three-day pow wow was the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians' first such event since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic

The "pow wow" is a Native American tradition; a spiritual gathering with singing, dancing and participants spending time together to celebrate their ancestral heritage.

The three-day San Manuel Pow Wow held in September was the tribe's first such event since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers estimate that members from more than 500 tribes took part in the celebration.

"I think everyone was excited to come back out and have a pow wow again," said Natahny Chacon, one of the organizers of the event. "It's definitely a spiritual healing aurora you feel being around the music and dancing and the love you can feel within the community."

They estimate the event was attended by more than 10,000 people this year. Many came from all across Southern California to partake in the festivities, check out Native American jewelry and arts-and-crafts and enjoy traditional foods.

"Oh yes!" said Andrea Raquel, who came from Hemet to attend the pow wow. "We had a flatbread taco and it was insane."

But for all the tradition on display, there is also change. Navajo tribal member Lorenzo Snyder said years ago, his son-who is gay-was not allowed to perform in the sweetheart's dance.

For the first time in the history of the Inland Empire, San Bernardino County officials publicly acknowledged the land on which three of its museums sit is the ancestral territory of the Serrano people.

"Initially they were not allowed to participate, because they're man and man couple," said Snyder. "So, they were disqualified. But since then, the culture has changed; the way the pow wow has recognized same sex couples has changed. And so, the landscape has changed a bit."

Snyder said the traditions of the Native American pow wow are good examples of what is known as the "seventh-generation principal," which is believed to have originated with the Iroquois.

"(We are) always improving our stead for our kids, our grandkids, great grandkids and so forth. We're always looking seven generations down the road."