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Inter-Tribal Pow Wow Lights Up San Luis Rey Mission

Native American dancers participate in Pow Wow at the San Luis Rey Mission gr...

Photo by Andi Dukleth

Above: Native American dancers participate in Pow Wow at the San Luis Rey Mission grounds in Oceanside, June 8, 2019.

San Diego County’s San Luis Rey Mission hosted the 23rd Annual Inter-Tribal Pow Wow this past weekend.

“Pow Wows have been around since the beginning of time,” said Carrie Lopez, the senior advisor to San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians Tribal Council.

“They were the primary gathering time for tribes in the area across the county. It’s just a bustling time of exchange, culture to culture, person to person, from vast regions.”

Today, Pow Wows are dancing competitions, complete with a first, second, and third prize. Cristina Villa Lobos said it’s part of the Pow Wow trail.

“It goes throughout the whole nation where dancers follow it as a way to earn income,” she said.

By the dancing arena, Pow Wow Emcee Randy Pico greeted friend Chuck Cadotte, representing the Lakota Sioux tribe.

“It’s become a tradition,” Pico said. “A homecoming for families like Chuck.”

Cadotte is a traditional northern dancer. Dressed in full regalia, he is honored to participate on behalf of his home in Standing Rock. But he cannot forget his community as the legal battles continue with the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“We’re slowly winning the battle up there in the courts,” he said. “All the people who have been incarcerated have been released… I still show my support from out here in California to my homelands.”

With the Trump administration rolling back Obama era environmental protections, Cadotte expresses concern for his community’s future.

“The current administration is kind of negative towards our own indigenous people,” Cadotte continues, “The tribal funding for indigenous colleges, they’re being cut… And we have to protest against the parks being opened for hunting.”

Randy Pico said the lack of representation in mainstream media contributes to their struggles.

“We’re so low of the percentage of the masses of this great country now. Probably 1% or less,” Pico said. “But we are very passionate about our cultures, our tribal traditions, and where we’re from.”

Photo by Andi Dukleth

Randy Pico presides over the the 23rd Annual San Luis Rey Pow Wow, June 8, 2019.

Carrie Lopez feels the same way.

“Native Americans are not a thing of the past. It’s a current culture that’s vital, beautiful, and we’ll take every opportunity we can to celebrate the fact that we’ve survived.” Lopez said.

Lopez is especially excited. Her daughter, Villa Lobos, was asked to carry their tribal flag for the Grand Entry, the Pow Wow’s opening ceremony to bless the dancing arena. It makes her the first non-military woman to hold the honor.

“The significance for today's moment, for me… It’s really representing the duality of men and women, both tribal members. We are all a whole family here. So that’s why it’s really meaningful for me,” Villa Lobos said.

The San Luis Rey Pow Wow happens every year during the second week of June. But if you missed it, don’t fret. There will be another one in Imperial Beach June 15th through the 16th.

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