Sunday, September 28, 2008

California Native American Day

Saturday was a day for celebrating California Native American traditions at many tribal lands all over the state, but the official Native American Day was Friday. I nearly forgot about it, because the event at the Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo Rancheria was not well publicized. I arrived in mid-afternoon, and was relieved to see that the dancing was still going on. Their land extends from the western edge of Willits westward into the hills.

The clothing and ornamentation on both the dancers pictured above is strictly for ceremonial dancing. You can even see the tan lines on the young man, showing that he ordinarily likes to wear a tank top, shorts, and full shoes. These costumes, especially on the man, are very specific to the Pomo people, and should not be confused with the traditions of other First Nations of North America. One of the common struggles of all Native American Indians is the fallacy that none of them survived the American conquest. They are now modern people like everyone else, with a rich legacy of cultural traditions. They are US citizens, who vote, serve in the military, attend local schools, and speak English. They are not required to live on tribal lands, but often choose to do so. Please look at my additional photos of this event linked here.

Also, I am pleased to be able to show you a short video, linked here, I took with my camera of one of the dances! It isn't perfect, but it's something.


Dina said...

A good day you share. Yeah, his tan lines tell a lot.
Nice picture story over on your Overflow too. Was there much of an audience?

JM said...

Glad Native Americans still keep their ceremonies even if it is just for one day of the year... I've allways find their outfits so very awesome, but in this Pomo people difference between men and women is so notorious... I wonder what the ladies used to dress before they got the fabrics from the europeans.

Hilda said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the video and the other photos. This is one festival I would have loved immensely. I think I've mentioned that I love most native/ethnic music, crafts and clothes, of many countries. I find that they have many similarities, especially in the music and the patterns, despite the distance from each other.

Amy Wachspress said...

Great photo of a beautiful Pomo Indian in traditional garb.

glo said...

Good sound quality on the video. A delight!

Petrea said...

If not for the outfits, they look like the kids I see at the mall, tan lines and all.

About an hour from here the Cahuilla Band of Native Americans have a big pow wow every year. They publicize it and invite everyone. They have dancing in a tent and it goes on for two days. They also sell native foods, jewelry and other crafts.

Laurie said...

Although my little daughter is the Japanese and French/English hybrid of her father and me, I swear she has some soul connection with Native American dancing. She saw this kind of dancing on TV when she was about 13 months old and was riveted by the drumming. She still just loves that kind of beat and any rhythmic dance. (I need to find her a drum circle!)

Great video, Elaine. It was nice to see that!

Kris said...

I think that people struggle to remember that the American indian civilisations (north and south) were actually quite advanced in their own way when Columbus arrived. It's good to hear that California are doing their bit to recognise that, a lot of South Americans would do well to look to this sort of thing to reconcile the present with the past. In places like Argentina, you just don't hear of Native Americans, and their role in both the history of the land, and ongoing presence in society.

USelaine said...

Dina - I arrived at about 2:30 or so, and it was already fairly hot (in the 90s F). There were only about three dozen people there at that time. But the event started in the morning, so I have to assume other people came and went throughout the day. I only stayed about an hour.

JM - While this statewide Day is only once a year, they have other tribal events where the dances are performed. I have only ever seen pictures of Pomo women showing post-conquest clothes, but I would guess they were barebreasted in summer. The climate in California would allow for that. It is "Old World" culture that eroticized women's breasts. The dress style shown here seems to date back to the mission school days, not unlike the loose, practical but pretty clothing put on Hawaiian natives.

Hilda - I'm glad you enjoyed the posts. When I lived in Sacramento, I tried to take advantage of the wide diversity of cultural festivals there. I read somewhere that it's actually the most ethnically diverse city in the state! Surprising when you think of San Francisco and Los Angeles. I don't know if you could tell from these photos, but it is the male Pomo dancers who have the pipes, hanging from their necks, to blow in certain dances.

Amy - Thanks, he looks pretty sharp, doesn't he!

Glo - I feel so lucky that it worked out! I couldn't make them do it over, and I couldn't really check it out until I got it on my computer at home. Whew! Thanks!

Petrea - I don't know why it is, but the local Pomo folks don't publicized in the mainstream media, as far as I can tell. On the other hand, the Pomo band up in Laytonville advertised for weeks, asking for community-wide crafts vendors, etc. which made their event more widely known. Just the difference between two different administration plans. This one seemed to be more for the Pomos themselves. I think there were a couple of other white people there, and two Rasta-style black guys. Everyone else looked like Native Americans.

My mom tells me that I was grooving to the beat of The Battle Hymn of the Republic at that age. It must have been that marching beat that got to me too. 8^) She mailed in a request to the Tennessee Ernie Ford show, and he sang it for me on television. Woo-Hoo! Every little girl deserves a drum, it seems. 6^)

Kris - I don't know anything of the Argentinian situation, but we do hear about active oppression of the indigenous populations in southern Mexico. If you haven't seen it, take a look at "Y tu mama tambien" (2001). Social commentary masquerading as a teen sex romp. It would be great to see daily photo blogs from more indigenous/aboriginal people today, showing the world they experience.

Thanks everyone, for checking out my links on this one especially. There is more to be learned than I could ever provide in my commentary.

Marylène said...

Nice pictures and video.
Appreciation of diversity is something I really discovered thanks to your country.

Saretta said...

Fascinating! I enjoyed all the photos! Wish I could have been there!

Petrea said...

Marylène, your comment made me stop and think. It made me feel good! I think some Americans (okay, like me) haven't been feeling so proud of our country lately. Your comment reminded me we still have something to feel good about. Thank you.

Jules said...

It is so important, like in PNG, that young people retain their wonderful culture and traditions.