Luiseño Indians Welcome 60,000 Guests to Their Pow Wow

(Courtesy Pechanga Resort & Casino)

Tish Leizens

Luiseño Indians Welcome 60,000 Guests to Their Pow Wow

With prize money exceeding $80,000, a carefully selected head staff, fireworks extravaganza and breathtaking views, it is easy to understand why the Pechanga Pow Wow, June 28-30, in Temecula, California draws about 60,000 visitors annually.

“It’s competition here at the pow wow but it is not as much competition but a sense of pride,” said Randy Pico, head staff coordinator of the pow wow to be held on the festival grounds of the Pechanga Resort & Casino.

“It is a sense of pride to know their lifestyles,” he said, referring to dancers, drummers and singers who come to share their talents and represent over 30 different tribes. For the youth, he said, there is pride in dancing in their regalias that are likely made by their families and friends.Now in

The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians has aptly used the theme for their 18th annual homecoming: The Tradition Continues.

This year, the free cultural Native event was pushed forward a week, with July 4 being in the middle of the week, said Ciara Green, public relations manager of the Pechanga Resort & Casino.

Regardless of the date change, the pyrotechnics show—claimed to rival any of the fireworks show of top amusement parks and sports stadiums—will remain to dazzle on Saturday, June 29, at dusk. Another show has been added and scheduled for the next Saturday, July 6.

“The fact is the pow wow is on the reservation, with all the amenities—parking is free, there is camping, a fireworks show and a resort and casino—the largest casino in California,” said Pico.

He said the Pechanga people go out of their way to make the event special for their guests. For instance, more than 100 food vendors offer culinary delights. For dancers, their green stage is the quality of golf course grass.

Thomas Phillips, Kiowa/Creek, leads the head staff, as the MC. Martin Waukazoo, Rosebud Sioux is honorary MC.

“We have an incredible head staff,” said Pico, a Luiseño Indian who himself emcees in other pow wows and whose family is quite involved in Pechanga Pow Wow. His father, Norman Pico used to be the head staff coordinator before he passed away. His younger brother, Norman Pico, Jr. is currently the pow wow coordinator.

“By design, traditionally, all head staff at the Pechanga Pow Wow has ties to the state of California. We are unique in this respect,” said Pico.

Those who are from out of state but recognized for their contributions to the Pechanga community are Wayne Silas Jr., Menominee/Oneida, named northern arena director; Dr. Cornel Pewewardy, Comanche/Kiowa, head gourd dancer; and North Bear Singers, host northern drum.

Also on the head staff are Earl Neconie, Kiowa, southern arena director; Joe Perdiguerra, Shawnee, head southern man; David Macarro, Pechanga Luiseño, head northern man; Niko DeRoin, Otoe-Missouria/Choctaw, head southern woman; and Cruz Hernandez, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, head northern woman.

Grace Rose Baga, Tachi-Yokut/Rosebud Sioux/Southern Ute/Apache, was named head young lady; Phillip “One Sun” Bread, Comanche/Blackfeet, head young man; and Sooner Nation, Steve Bohay, Kiowa, host southern drum.

Swiftcloud Drum is listed as an invited drum and Eugene Newman, Shawnee, head drum judge.

Performers from ages 2 to 80 will compete in several dances including northern traditional, southern straight, chicken, fancy, grass, jingle, buckskin northern, buckskin southern, northern cloth, southern cloth and a number of combination dances.

Adding to the excitement are the specials, which include the jingle and southern buckskin head staff contest and invited singing contest. The prizes for the specials are on top of the $80,000 prize money.

Pico said the pow wow has a mix of south and northern elements along with the uniqueness of California Indian dancing. A total of $4,000 has been put aside for three team winners of the Peon tournament.