Pechanga Resort Casino’s Pow Wow returns in 2023 after 8-year absence

After an eight-year absence, the Pechanga Pow Wow will return to Temecula for its 20th celebration.

The free event, which includes tribal singing, dancing, Native American food and artisan crafts, will take place at Pechanga Casino Resort’s Summit Events Center Jan. 6-8. The event marks the first Pow Wow of the year and will take place indoors and outdoors in case any unexpected rain occurs.

The grand entries, which serve as a ceremonial opening of the festival each day, introduce participants from various Native American tribes from across the country proudly displaying their regalia and colors, sharing their dance styles and more. The first grand entry begins at 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 6 with following entries starting at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7 and 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 8. There will also be a fireworks show at 7 p.m. Jan. 6. Guests are encouraged to bring low-back chairs and blankets if they prefer or sit in the bleacher-style seating area.

Andrew Masiel Sr., president of the Pechanga Development Corporation, said in a recent phone interview that he was proud to bring the Pow Wow back to the region.

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“The Pow Wow allows the neighboring general public to experience a culture that they may not have been aware of or had the opportunity to experience in person,” he said.

Sandra Hale, owner of Lucy’s Hale Indian Tacos & Frybread, who’ll be vending at the festival, said she’s excited to see Pechanga’s Pow Wow gearing up again.

In a phone interview, Hale said she remembers Pechanga’s Pow Wow growing larger with every passing year until it was postponed in 2015 due to the property’s $300 million resort expansion.

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“Pechanga has excelled, and it makes me happy that we are still a part of it,” she said.

Her mother, Lucy Hale, managed the food stand for over six decades until her death in 2016 and worked at several of Pechanga’s Pow Wow events serving food. As a child, Hale said the Pechanga’s Pow Wow stood out in her memory because of how hot it was. The Pow Wow used to take place in the summer, and temperatures would rise over 100 degrees in Temecula.

“I remember telling my mom that it was hot in the kitchen while we were cooking,” Hale said.

The Hale’s dishes are served with frybread, which has the consistency of funnel cake, but is thicker and softer. Frybread is a Native American staple with historical roots. In the 1860s, the United States government forced Native tribes to relocate from Arizona to New Mexico onto lands that didn’t support their traditional food staples. To prevent natives from starving, the government provided some canned goods which included oil, white flour, processed sugar and grease, which became the ingredients for frybread.

“They had to do with what they were given, and that’s how they made the frybread,” Hale said

Hale, who is from the Navajo tribe, said that her mother’s recipe was crafted from the same supplies tribes were given after they were forced to flee.

Dishes from their stand include Indian tacos made with ground beef, tomato, lettuce, and cheese, but instead of the standard tortilla, it’s substituted with frybread. Customers can also find other frybread versions of corn dogs and burgers. The stand also sells frybread as a dessert with powdered sugar, cinnamon and honey.

The firework show is one of the many things that Hale looks forward to the most at the Pechanga Pow Wow. She said that when it comes time for the show, the lights go out, and most folks take a seat at a designated area, but often, people in line for her booth plant themselves on the ground while waiting.

“It’s fun because when the fireworks go out, I remember people would scream, and it lasted a long time,” Hale said. “These fireworks are better than Disneyland.”

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