More than 150 American Indians from dozens of diverse tribes gathered to meet, pray and dance at the annual powwow at Lodi Lake Park this weekend, and welcomed visitors and friends to join them.
This is the Indian version of going to church, said Deana Johnson, member of the council who serves on the powwow committee. This is where we come to pray.
Dancers in spectacular regalia made of deer skin, turkey and hawk feathers, buffalo bones and beads, entered into the circle of dance to pounding rhythms of drum music and tribal singing.
Visitors were invited to join in the circle to dance and many children were delighted to have the chance.
Second-grader Alexis Jordan of Roseville tossed coins on an offering blanket and skipped into the circle, flailing arms and legs in sync with the primal music and grinning from ear to ear.
Her aunt, Annette Bates of Susanville, said she loves coming to these events because of the music and because its a great way for children to learn about living history and culture.
April Farrell of Lodi and her son, Devon, a first-grader at Vinewood School, enjoyed the performances along with friends Leslie Jones of Stockton and her son, Brandon, also in first grade.
Jones said she first attended a powwow as part of a sociology class at Delta College and has been hooked ever since. She said she finds the music therapeutic and soulful, and feels connected to the singers and dancers.
Iris Kirkpatrick of the Omaha tribe in Nebraska was glistening with perspiration after doing her turn in the Golden Age category of the dance competition.
The statuesque woman with iron-gray hair made an imposing picture in her native dress handmade from nine deer pelts, meticulously slit to create flowing long fringe at the sleeves and hem. Her gown was accented with cut crystal beads that sparkled in the light as she turned and dipped to the music and two large polished abalone shells gleamed silvery blue and green against her costume. Johnson said Kirkpatrick was highly regarded within the American Indian community and because of her status, she had been given the abalone shells by members of a coastal tribe.
Lodi Lake park was swarming with visitors for the powwow and Salmon Festival, although most of the Salmon Festival events took place Saturday with a barbecue and informational booths provided by the Lodi Parks and recreation department and California Department of Fish and Game.
Johnson said that there were easily double the number of visitors and participants this year from last.
They served 300 dinners to the dancers and their families on Saturday, she said, and attendance appeared to be more than a thousand. The event gains popularity through word of mouth, which these days may be in the form of e-mails and faxes. People hear that it is a great event, and tell their friends, and more come each time, said Johnson.
The weather was sunny, warm and just a little humid and crowds shopped for memorabilia like handmade dream-catchers, silver and turquoise jewelry and lamps made of stone and feathers. There were sno-cones and corn dogs, but by far the most popular treat was the Indian Taco, a sandwich the size of a medium pizza, made of a thick circle of chewy fried bread mounded with fried ground beef, shredded cheese, lettuce and chopped tomatoes.
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