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Pow wow waiting for someone to step up in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Ordinarily at this time of the year, board members of the West Valley Native American Association, Inc. would be busy preparing for the coming pow wow in Granger Community Park, but everything is at a standstill now after the leader announced he was resigning from organizing future pow wows.

At the last pow wow in August, Harry James Sr., Navajo and president of the board, said after 10 years of organizing the event, he was stepping down to allow for someone else to do the work. James explained that he and his family were just tired of doing all of the work every year.

“Right after the pow wow, the month of September, we start looking for sponsors, money, meet with the companies, and that kind of stuff,” James said. “Grant letters are written and connection with the people that we are going to bring in, the guest speakers, the performance that we bring in. It takes the whole year.”

A long-time resident of West Valley City, a suburb of Salt Lake City, James allowed his wife, Pristine, to seek grants while his daughter, Chrishel, took care of the pow wow vendors. His sons prepared the pow wow grounds.

A retired Utah State employee, James said he missed the work. “Right now, I keep mistakenly wanting to do something. I start looking for sponsors. Then, I say, oh, I don’t have to do that anymore.”

James, a veteran, said the Salt Lake City’s Intertribal Veterans Association, which he helped organize eight years ago, has expressed interested in continuing the pow wow. They plan to meet in November to discuss the pow wow. He said, “We (he and his family) are willing to volunteer. There is no problem with that.”

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James continued, “The veteransgroup is talking about it. They approached me the last day of the pow wow, gave me a gift, and said, hey, we don’t want this thing to go down. It’s been here 10 years, and it’s been very profitable, recognized all over the country. Sure hate to let it go.”

Another group, Cal Nez Design, a Navajo owned company of Salt Lake City has expressed interest in continuing the pow wow. Nez organizes and puts on the Liberty Park Contest Pow wow each July during the city’s celebration of the pioneer days.

During the 10 years, the annual Native American festival and contest pow wow in West Valley City won several recognition awards. In 1999, it received the Cultural Diversity Award, in 2002, the Lifetime Achievement award, in 2006, the Utah Humanities Council Award, and in 2007, the West Valley City Mayor’s Award. In 2008, James received the Key to the City Award from Mayor Dennis Nordfelt.

James said the board in late 2007 let the public know that the festival and pow wow were going to end, and if anyone wanted to continue it, they would need to help with organizing so they will know what goes into the planning activities for the pow wow.

“They could’ve gone through the whole year, all of the things that we do,” James said.

He said no one was considering any plans for the 2009 festival and contest pow wow. “What we are doing right now is just closing up the books. We have done most of the reports; doing evaluations with the sponsors, inventory, and all that stuff. Other than that, there are really no thoughts of the pow wow right now.”