MODESTO — The Intertribal Pow Wow events are a chance for families and friends to catch up and enjoy a sunny Sunday together. But Cherokee Phillips says it's much more than that.
"It's a family cultural gathering to meet the elders, to learn our culture," said 20-year-old Phillips, who works for the Indian Education Program in Yuba City. "It's like cultural school for us."
He was wearing Northern-style regalia with traditional leggings and participated in several of the dances at the 15th Intertribal Pow Wow at Modesto Junior College's East Campus.
Several hundred people attended Sunday's event, which was co-sponsored by the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians and Black Oak Casino. Families representing tribes from as far as the Midwest performed various dances throughout the day.
Phillips has been performing in these types of events for about seven years, and he says he always feels better after attending a pow wow. It's a chance, he said, to put aside your troubles and have fun.
"You come out here and leave all the bad memories behind," Phillips said. "We want everyone to come and to see how much fun we have."
The event is designed to bring together the varied cultures and traditions of the American Indian people, which include entertainment and activities, arts, crafts and food.
Suzette Plumley and her family traveled from Salinas to participate in the pow wow in Modesto. The 15-year-old was wearing regalia worn by the Comanche tribe, which traditionally includes buck skin.
She enjoys catching up with old friends and family she hasn't seen for a long while, but she uses the opportunity to learn about her father's upbringing in Oklahoma.
"I like to dance, and keeping in touch with our culture," Plumley said.
Many traditional dances
Sunday's event started with gourd dancing and was followed by a traditional opening ceremony called the grand entry. The ceremony brought together all the dancers, who were accompanied by a drum group that performed a victory song to honor veterans.
Suzette and her father, Dennis Plumley, performed in the grand entry dance. Fifty-year-old Dennis was dressed in traditional regalia worn by southern dancers, and he was representing Comanche and Pawnee tribes of Missouri and Oklahoma.
Back in Oklahoma, he said, they have pow wow events every weekend. Now that he and his family live in Salinas, they take every opportunity to attend a pow wow.
"I want to teach my daughters, pass down the traditions of our culture," Dennis Plumley said. "It's just a way to get together and have a good time."
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394.