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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, October 4, 2004

Pow wow a gathering of nations

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Cherokee Boles stood near the dance arena at the 30th annual Intertribal Pow Wow in Thomas Square yesterday, holding an autographed CD from the Red Thunder Singers.

Tawny Hale, 22, of Fullerton, Calif, danced at the 30th annual Intertribal Pow Wow at Thomas Square in Honolulu yesterday. Hale, a member of the Dakota Sioux and Navajo tribes, was among several dancers and other performers at the annual event.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

As Red Thunder performed, a group of women danced, led by the pulse of the drum and by Rose Sampson, member of the Yakama nation of Washington State and head woman dancer.

Taking in the sights and sounds of the Pow Wow — and the smell of fry bread — made Boles a little homesick, he said. A year ago, he moved his family to Honolulu from Laguna Pueblo, his wife's home in New Mexico.

About a third of the dancers — women, men and children, some in traditional dress, others in fancy costumes — are Hawai'i residents, Sampson said. The Red Thunder Singers are local, but Mainland drumming groups performed as well.

Sampson, who travels across the country dancing competitively and selling her crafts at pow wows, said the Hawai'i trip, which she has been making annually for 12 years, is a fun way for those who travel from the Mainland to combine work, dancing and vacation.

"The people here really get involved," she said. "They ask a lot of questions. They want to know what is going on.

Makaha cousins Keala Judd, 3, right, and Gabriel Napoleon, 5, were among the smallest dancers at the Intertribal Pow Wow. The cousins are members of the Cherokee tribe. Pow wows arose as a way to help Native American cultures survive repressive federal policies.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

"I've met three relatives here I didn't know," she said. "Two on the Big Island from my father's family, one here on O'ahu from my mother's family. I've seen marriages develop here."

Cheri Yamamoto and her Kane'ohe Girl Scouts from Troop 400 sat back a little from the dance arena, eating fry bread and comparing craft purchases while Sampson returned to the dance.

The girls said they particularly enjoyed the dancer who performed with hoops, and the women who twirled in colorful shawls. They liked fry bread with honey. They bought arrowheads at the craft stands, and dream catchers to hang above their beds.

Yamamoto said David Mulinix from the Honolulu Theater for Youth had visited the scouts before the pow wow and taught them that the event was a coming together of nations.

"It really deepened their understanding," she said.

Mulinix, a Dakota Sioux who moved to Honolulu 32 years ago and who danced in Thomas Square yesterday, said the pow wow arose from a time when different groups of Native Americans were herded together on reservations and were forbidden by the U.S. government from expressing their cultures, languages and religions.

The dances were first held in secret, at night and out of public view, he said. Because the dancers didn't share a common language, the songs that accompanied the drums were guttural and wordless; sounds that conveyed meaning without language.

Pow wows became public events after Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show made native dancers popular, he said.

Over the years, acceptable pow wow dress and dance grew more colorful and varied, he said. Women now have dresses that jingle when they dance, or wear colorful shawls that evoke the appearance of a butterfly, he said. Young men wear fringes that move like grass.

Mulinix wore a semi-spherical head piece made from crow feathers tipped with rabbit fur yesterday.

"I eat a lot of crow," he joked. "Had a lot of leftover feathers."

Events continue tonight with the Native American Flute and Storytelling Concert at 7 p.m. at the Center for Hawaiian Studies on the campus of the University of Hawai'i-Manoa. Admission is free.

The Kaua'i Pow Wow will be Oct. 9-10 at Kapa'a Beach Park. For details, visit www.kauaipowwow.com.

Reach Karen Blakeman at 535-2430 or kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.