2012 Contest Powwow receives injection of youth
By Ron Karten
Smoke Signals staff writer
The Tribe’s Uyxat Powwow Grounds filled up with dancers not yet in regalia all day on Friday, Aug. 17.
The day was warm and windy, but not torrid like the previous almost 100-degree plus days.
Boys threw footballs back and forth on two sides of the powwow tent during the afternoon. They weren’t yet in anybody’s way.
It was appropriate as children were the centerpiece of the Tribe’s 2012 Contest Powwow.
“Children,” said Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy in her welcoming introduction to a filled tent, “you are the reason your parents come to the powwow. They come to see you doing things in the right way.” She thanked the children “for helping carry on our traditions.”
Culture & Language Specialist Bobby Mercier, in his invocation following Grand Entry on Saturday night, had another take on the children.
“We are not raising children,” Mercier said. “We are raising Elders who can lead us in the future.”
Elder Marcella Selwyn watched her 3-year-old granddaughter Rayauna Meneley dance in her first powwow while wearing her first regalia. Selwyn said she spent the week before making the jingle-style dress, including moccasins.
“She said, ‘I want a dress that makes noise,’ ” Selwyn said. At powwow, under the tent, “Rayauna looked at her feet and looked at Sage (her cousin, also dressed in regalia and ready to dance), and she was out dancing,” Selwyn said.
New Tribal Royalty also was crowned under the tent.
Dancing as the West Coast Boys drummed, 16-year-old Kiana Leno, a junior at West Salem High School, was named Senior Miss Grand Ronde for 2012-13. In 2000-01, she was Little Miss Tiny Tot. Before that, she was an honorary princess.
Starting this summer, Leno has once again been busy with Tribal activities, starting with a summer intern position in the Cultural Resources Department.
“I realized I did want to be a lot more involved with the community and the Tribe,” Leno said.
Kailiyah Krehbiel, 10 and a sixth-grader at Willamina Middle School, danced her way to this year’s Junior Miss Grand Ronde, though selections are based on more than just dancing. This was her first involvement with Tribal Royalty.
“I wanted to learn more about my Tribe,” Krehbiel said.
The contest for Little Miss Grand Ronde for 2012-13 was delayed until the fall.
More every year, the Tribe is seeing the increasing benefits of Royalty in every corner of Tribal activities. Krehbiel also has paddled on the Tribal Canoe Journey and attends cultural presentations with her father, Brian Krehbiel, a Cultural Education specialist with the Tribe. And she is among a number of this year’s Contest Powwow dancers who also have been participating in recent intertribal powwows for children coordinated by Halona Butler and Washie Squetimkin (Colville).
Butler also has been a longtime Royalty member, active in Tribal affairs before this year by starting the monthly children’s intertribal powwows. She also works for the Education Department at the Tribe.
Another involved with the children’s intertribal powwows was Elizabeth Watson-Croy, who wore traditional-style regalia for the Contest Powwow. On Saturday afternoon, she had danced once and was happily getting ready to dance a second time. She finished fifth in the Junior Girls Traditional contest.
Others from the children’s intertribal powwows who also participated in the 2012 Contest Powwow included Dakota and Madison Ross, Kaleb Reed, Makenzie Aaron, Iyana Holmes and Kevin Simmons’ five children – Kaelynn, 11, Makai, 9, Shasta, 7, Seq’hiya, 6, and Qwinem, 14 months – who come up from Eugene for most of the powwows.
“They always look forward to powwows,” said Robin Simmons, their mother. “They like coming up and having to be in Grand Ronde.”
Dana Leno-Ainam, chair of the Tribe’s Powwow Special Event Board, called it “a whole new revitalization for our young people.”
“Many will be out at powwow for the first time,” she said, because “young people are understanding powwow and wanting to be involved with regalia and through dance.”
Leno-Ainam said that 25 Grand Ronde youth between 6 and 12 years of age participated this year compared to eight in 2011.
“In addition,” Leno-Ainam said, “there were several others who danced socially. This is attributed to the work of the cultural program and those like Halona Butler and Washie, Brian Krehbiel, Bobby Mercier and many others have done to start and support dance class, regalia making and children’s powwow.”
The Tribe’s Culture Committee hosted a children’s play center with beads, drawing utensils and adult supervision that stayed busy.
A 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament, the first ever at a Grand Ronde Contest Powwow, was sponsored by Youth Education and held on Saturday in the parking lot in front of the Tribal plankhouse. In addition, there was a slam dunk contest and a 3-point shootout during the day.
This year’s event, held Friday, Aug. 17, through Sunday, Aug. 19, featured 250 dancers competing for $35,000 in prize money contributed by Tribal Council, craft and food vendors, the annual parade from Fort Yamhill State Park to the powwow grounds and back, two host drums, three dance specials, and by-donation breakfasts and dinners.
For dinner on Saturday, Tribal Food Services Coordinator Kristy DeLoe and her crew prepared 350 pounds of salmon, 200 pounds of corn, 1,200 rolls, uncountable grains of rice and bottled water. As of dinner on Saturday, there had been demand enough for all of it.
DeLoe advised one diner that it might be OK to come back later, but not too much later.
Shuttle service was available to the powwow grounds all weekend from Spirit Mountain Casino.
Master of ceremonies was Fred Hill (Umatilla), arena director was Fred Ike Jr. (Yakama) and head judge was Sidrick Baker.
The annual Contest Powwow Parade started at 10 a.m. Saturday at Fort Yamhill State Park, down the hill to the Powwow Grounds and back.
Host drums were Blacklodge from the Yakama Tribal area and The Boyz, a drum from the Midwest. Blacklodge has long been a participant and supporter of the Grand Ronde Contest Powwow and The Boyz were new this year. Twenty-eight drums played this year.
If children were a big part of powwow, Elders were in evidence everywhere.
The Grand Ronde Honor Guard, all Elders, was led by Wayne Chulik with the Eagle feather and included Gene LaBonte, Ken Robertson, Jessie Robertson Jr. (PeeWee), Al Miller and Bob Duncan.
Elder Gladys Hobbs collected beads at one vendor for her bead classes held at the Elders’ Activity Center. Everyone from the community is invited to participate when the class starts up again the week that school starts.
“When we grew up in Grand Ronde,” Hobbs recalled, “it was not Natives here and whites there. We were Indians and it was just the community.”
Some 50 craft vendors and 15 food vendors, including traditional fry bread from Tribal Elders Margaret Provost and Claudia Leno, served crowds estimated for the weekend at 10,000 to 15,000.
“Now we dance in celebration,” said Hill at Saturday evening’s Grand Entry, “the celebration of life.”