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Pow Wow Summer Guide: West Coast

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Summer is nearly here, which means the pow wow season is about to really heat up. That’s why we’ve put together a simplified guide for any pow wow lovin’ guy or gal out there who may want to fire up the car, throw the kids in the backseat, and pin a road map on the dash (it’s more romantic to imagine it that way, GPS device be damned) and blaze the perfect pow wow trail. We’ve broken the country up into six regions, but by no means is this list comprehensive—the modern pow wow schedule is so varied and stimulating that it would take many more pages (and staff members!) to come up with anything that could even begin to capture the breadth of the upcoming pow wow offerings. This is merely a quick peek at a few pow wows that caught our eye, and that might, should you attend, sooth your soul.

So come for a ride down both coasts, across the often-great plains, over those majestic mountains and into the desert—no matter where you may roam, there’s likely a pow wow you’ll want to attend.

The 40th Annual Stanford Powwow goes from May 6-8 over Mother’s Day weekend in the Eucalyptus Grove on Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California. Black Lodge is hosting the northern drum, while Southern Express will handle the southern drum. The grand entry starts on Friday at seven p.m., with drum and dance competitions. Special categories include the tiny tot special, men’s and women’s switch dance, and the chicken dance. For more information, visit

From May 7-8, the Mother Earth’s People Inter-Tribal Traditional Gathering is being held at the Mojave Narrows Regional Park in Victorville, California. The Flag Ceremony will include Joe Morris, a Navajo code talker, while the host northern drum will be Green River, and the host southern drum will be Red Horse. Tribes represented include the Creek, Lakota, Cheyenne, Yokut and Laguna Pueblo. There’s also a playground, horse rides, tipi village and water saloon along with all the drumming, dancing and food. For more information, call Moreena Rocha Chavez at 760-245-2398.

The Third Annual Pit River “Big Time” Powwow at the Pit River Casino from May 13-15 in Burney, California. An impressive list of performers is slated for the event—MC Nick Dodson will corral entertainers ranging from comedians Larry Omaha and Marc Yaffee to “Cali style” dancers. The grand entry starts on Saturday at noon, and there’s both RV park and camping available. For more information, visit

From May 27-28, the 30th Annual University of California Riverside Pow-Wow will be held at the UCR Sports Center in Riverside, California. Sponsored by the Native American Student Association and the Native American Student Programs of UCR, this pow wow features traditional singing, drumming and dancing, as well as bird singers, artists and plenty of food. For more information, visit

The 14th Annual Standing Bear Powwow at Bakersfield College in Bakersfield, California, runs from June 3-5. Sponsored by the Native American Heritage Preservation Council of Kern County, this event showcases intertribal dancing, exhibition dancing, drumming and cultural demonstrations For more information, call 661-589-3181.

The Autry National Center hosts an annual Southern California Indian Center Pow Wow every July (dates TBD) which brings Indians to Los Angeles for food, dancing, drumming and parades. For more information, visit

The 41st Annual Indian Fair Days & Pow Wow from August 6-7 in North Fork, California is sponsored by the Sierra Mono Indian Museum. Gates open at nine a.m. on Saturday August 6, with the gourd ceremony. Along with contest dances, there will be princess and brave competitions, intertribal exhibitions and a contest potato dance. For more information, visit

The 20th Annual Morongo Thunder and Lightning Pow Wowin Cabazon, California from September 23-25 is held next to the tribe’s stunning Casino Resort & Spa. Voted the number one contest pow wow in 2009 by, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians believe, “there are no spectators at a pow wow,” (from their site). Bird dancing is a wonder to watch, and the bird song competition is music to the ears. For more information, visit