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Powwow to return with rendezvous

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record staff
A dancer performs at the grand entry of the 2003 powwow in Heber.
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Soldier Hollow was named after cavalry surveyors who camped in the area. But before the soldiers staked their tents, it was a Native American encampment, according to Howard Peterson, the general manager of Soldier Hollow.

Because of the colorful history that took place, Peterson says the area is perfect for the return of the Heber Valley Powwow and Mountain Man Rendezvous next weekend. After a one-year hiatus, the powwow was moved to Soldier Hollow last year.

"There’s no house within a mile of us so the lights and the music won’t bother our neighbors. This will be a long-term site," Peterson said.

This powwow will be unique because of the combination of the rendezvous. Observed through the lens of general stereotypes, it seems like a conflict of interest to combine mountain men and Native Americans.

Not so, says Jim Retallic, the organizer of the rendezvous.

"It’s a perfect mix because the Native Americans would attend the rendezvous, or just come for the big party," Retallic said. "The powwow and the rendezvous are a natural combination. A lot of mountain man also wintered with Indian tribes and a lot of (Native Americans) got a long with mountain men quite well."

Greg Red Elk, Dakota tribe member and brother of Heber resident Margaret Red Elk, agrees. The Montana resident has participated in many powwows and danced in them for years. His knee will keep him out of this powwow’s dances, but he will attend to sell his artwork and enjoy the company. He sees powwows as spiritual events and places where people can come together in unity.

"Like anywhere else," Greg Red Elk said, "you’re always going to run into racist people. When you go to the powwow it’s for everybody."

He described the Sacred Hoop, similar in appearance to a dream-catcher, which can be seen I various locations throughout the powwow. It’s a hoop with red, yellow, black and white colors that, Greg Red Elk said, represents the four nations of the Earth. In the middle is a cross that points to each color, which represents the union of the nations.

The word "powwow," actually began as a name. The term came from the Algonquian-speaking Narragansett Indians of the Northeastern part of the United States. "Powwow" referred to a shaman or teacher, a dream or vision, or a council or gathering. When the English met with Indian leaders they would "powwow together," or in Native American society one might visit a "powwow" because of his or her healing powers, according to California State University-Long Beach professor, Troy Johnson.

Now, the powwow is an event with competitive dances and prize money. But for some, gathering around the old symbols and the drumbeat still generates a feeling of the metaphysical, and transports those people back to the times of their forefathers.

"You win money, but the main thing is the feeling you have there. A lot of people relate to it spirituality, it’s a very spiritual place with the drumbeat. It’s mainly for enjoyment but you can feel it in the ceremonies. We still have a connection to that side of ourselves. The symbolism is there," Greg said.

For others it’s a type of family reunion.

"for me it’s a time for visiting our relatives," Margaret Red Elk said. "My family is all over the place, all in different states. All my relatives are coming this year. It gives us a good time to see each other and reminisce, and we are used to the drumbeat and it feels good to be around it."

She will be in charge of many of the Native American costumes displayed at the event. She fashioned and designed all over 600 costumes for the Steven Spielberg show, "Into the West," and has studied relentlessly about the culture and time period.

The event will reflect an accurate, authentic setting. There will be 20 Native American vendors and 20 mountain men traders. None of them will wear anything that would not have been available in their era.

Even the lighting for their booths will only reflect the technology that could have been here over 100 years ago, Peterson said.

A Native American spiritual advisor will act as the master of ceremonies and will talk with the audience. There will be story telling by mountain men and Native Americans stationed around the area. There will be musicians and singers who have composed music especially for the event to create a Wild West ambiance.

It will be a unique opportunity to view a range of traditional dance styles, regalia, and see Native American arts and crafts. Visitors can purchase directly from Native American artists who come from throughout the continent and they may also sample authentic Native American foods such as tacos and traditional fry-bread. Some of the dance contests will be open to everyone.

The mountain man rendezvous will be a re-creation of rendezvous that took place from 1826-1840, which Retallic said, was "the heyday of rendezvous." It will represent some of the trade items that you might find during that time such as, clothing goods, leather goods, gunpowder and black powder rifles.

Retallic will sell "Bison Brew," homemade cream soda and root beer sold in rustic bottles and stored in old-fashioned oak barrels. There will also be a "candy cannon." A small cannon will be filled with candy and shot out for whomever has a sweet tooth. There will be period demonstrations such as starting a fire with flint and steal. In future years, the rendezvous will expand and include competitions.

Last year about 2,400 people attended. This year, Peterson has heard of more people traveling from across the country to Soldier Hollow and expects the visitor number to be above 4,000.

The Heber Valley Powwow and Mountain Man Rendezvous will return to Soldier Hollow June 23-25. For this three-day period, Soldier Hollow will be host to many Native American nations within the United States coming together to share dance, food and art. Admission is $5 for the general public an, ages six and under are free.

Heber Valley Powwow and Mountain Man Rendezvous schedule:

Friday:

3-11 p.m.

Grand Entry at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday:

10 a.m. 11 p.m.

Grand Entries at 11 a.m. & 6:30 p.m.

Sunday:

10 a.m. 4 p.m.

Grand Entry at 11 a.m.


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