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Pechanga Resort Casino kicks off its Pow Wow with dancing, food and art

After an eight-year hiatus, participants dressed in feathers and colorful Native American regalia swirled in circles to the beat of the drums for the first day of Pechanga Resort Casino’s Pow Wow on Friday, Jan. 6.

The free, three-day festival running through Sunday, Jan. 8 in Temecula, kicked off with a fireworks show, followed by a Grand Entry ceremony indoors at the casino’s Summit Events Center. Spectators packed into the venue and watched representatives of tribes from Canada and across the country participate in dances honoring their respective tribes.

Mark Macarro, tribal chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, welcomed the tribes who attended the powwow.

“It’s a humble honor to welcome you to our home and our homelands,” Macarro said. “After eight years of not having a Pow Wow, you guys are helping us reestablish that tradition.”

Native American dancers celebrate the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow during the Grand Entry in Summit Events Center at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Native American dancers celebrate the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow during the Grand Entry in Summit Events Center at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Native American dancers celebrate the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow during the Grand Entry in Summit Events Center at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Native American dancers celebrate the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow during the Grand Entry in Summit Events Center at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Native American dancers celebrate the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow during the Grand Entry in Summit Events Center at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Drum circle Warpaint drummers perform as part of the 20th celebration Pechanga Pow Wow at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

People shop for Native American jewelry during the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow in Summit Events Center at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

People shop for Native American jewelry during the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow in Summit Events Center at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

People shop for Native American dream catchers and jewelry during the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow in Summit Events Center at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

The 20th Pechanga Pow Wow at Summit Events Center at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

People watch Grand Entry during the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow in Summit Events Center at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Pechanga Pow Wow attendees watch fireworks before the Grand Entry celebrating the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Sandra Hale, Owner of Hale’s Indian Tacos and Fry Bread prepares Indian bread to be cooked in her booth during the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Sandra Hale, Owner of Hale’s Indian Tacos and Fry Bread prepares fry bread in her booth during the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Fresh made food and drinks at Tacos Ocampo’s booth are severed during the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

An Indian Taco made at Hale’s Indian Tacos and Fry Bread during the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Fresh drinks at Tacos Ocampo’s are servered the 20th Pechanga Pow Wowat Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Families play as they wait in line to order food from the many booths during the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow at Summit Events Center at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

A cook makes Indian bread in a booth during the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

A man watches the Grand Entry during the 20th Pechanga Pow Wow in Summit Events Center at Pechanga Casino Resort’s in Temecula on Friday, January 6, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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The term powwow derives from a curing ritual that originated with one of the Algonquian nations of the Northeast Indians. In the 1800’s, traveling medicine vendors would employ local Native Americans to dance for entertainment for potential customers. Soon, Native Americans used the term to describe dancing for an audience in an exhibition setting, although gatherings with dances similar to powwow’s existed long before European arrival.

Today’s powwow’s are intertribal and open to everyone, including those not of Native American descent, to attend. The event typically includes competitive dancing, food vendors and artisan crafts sold by several tribes, which goes on for several days.

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Caley Cantsee, of Pyramid Lake, Utah, said he goes to powwow events every weekend, year-round and danced in the Grand Entry. Cantsee wore a traditional northern men’s outfit representing the Shoshone tribe.

He said that the outfit and each piece, from the feathers to the design, carries a lot of meaning. Part of his regalia uses fire colors to express his spirit’s connection to the element. He also incorporates greens to represent the Battle of Greasy Grass, in which tribes battled the United States Army.

“These stars actually represent grave sites in that battle,” Cantsee said.

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The dance that Cantsee chose also represents battle, but he said that each style of dancing by different tribal members depicts a different story or other significant events. The dances are mostly done with groups and evoke a sense of community.

“People from all over the U.S. and Canada came together to dance and be together,” Cantsee said.

The food at the powwow ranged from tacos to burgers, funnel cakes and, of course, the Native American staple of frybread. The specialty dish, which has the consistency of funnel cake but is thicker and softer, was sold in taco, burger, and corndog variations or as a dessert with cinnamon or honey at food stands like Lucy’s Hale Indian Tacos & Frybread.

Native Americans created frybread in response to the United States government’s forcefully removing them from their land where they traditionally hunted or grew food. The United States government gave the tribes limited supplies after ordering their removal, and those supplies became the basis of frybread.

Artisan vendors sold various styles of Native American earrings, blankets, T-shirts, dreamcatchers and stickers.

Inyourteepee, a booth by owner Joseph DeShawn of Tulalip, Wash., features collaborations with Native American artists and proudly displays Native American heritage and culture with its products.

Some of the merchandise is a callback to Native American slang with terms such as “Skoden” (meaning let’s go then) and “Stoodis” (let’s do this). Other merchandise such as T-shirts and stickers parrot famous brand logos like Burger King, but instead read “Frybread King.”

“The metaphor is to bring a Native American look to your everyday wear,” DeShawn said. “We gave it the Native American flair, and people love it.”

He’s primarily been operating his shop as an in-person business on the powwow circuit for two decades, but, in recent years, has gone online to reach a bigger market. DeShawn believes that powwows are the place to find the best support from people new to the scene and looking to embrace Native American culture and art.

“The most important thing about visiting the powwow and shopping here is that you’re stimulating the Native American economy,” DeShawn said.

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