Veterans Powwow honors band of brothers & sisters
By Ron Karten
Smoke Signals staff writer
The circle of veterans extended halfway around the tent at this year’s annual Marcellus Norwest Memorial Veterans Powwow, held Friday, July 6, through Sunday, July 8, at Uyxat Powwow Grounds.
Master of ceremony Nick Sixkiller noted that his father, Earl, and brother, Bob, were both Navy veterans with his father serving in World War II and his brother in Vietnam.
“And I served on the USS Sperry and the Proteus from 1969-73,” Sixkiller said.
Tribal Elder Herman Hudson Jr. said that his three uncles – Johnnie, Gene and Ken, all passed on – served in World War II, as did he; Johnnie in the Army and Gene, Ken and himself in the Navy.
Tribal Elder Alton Butler served in the Marines from 1969-80 and served in Vietnam. Tribal Elder and Tribal Council Vice Chair Reyn Leno served in the Marines in Vietnam from 1969-71. “One turn,” he said.
Bob Duncan served active duty in the Navy from 1964-68 and two more years inactive. He served in Morocco on the USS Sandoval ABA 194.
Pee Wee (Jesse Jr.) Robertson served in the Navy in Yokosuka, Japan, from 1981-85, and again this year enjoyed the powwow with fellow veterans Jerry Puderburgh, who went through boot camp with Pee Wee and served on the same ship, the USS Kirk FF 1087. They sat with fellow Navy veteran Mark Schweizer, also from the USS Kirk, who served from 1981-95.
The Veterans Powwow is often the place where Robertson and his former shipmates get together each year, sometimes as many as five or more of them from the USS Kirk.
Tribal Elder and Tribal Council member June Sherer served in the Army from 1966-69 in Germany. At 64, Sherer also was honored as the powwow’s senior woman. The senior man was 91-year-old Walt Grophy, a World War II Army veteran who served in Europe. This was also Grophy’s third visit to the Tribe’s Veterans Powwow.
The junior woman honored at the powwow was 47-year-old Beth Randolph, who served in the Army’s Berlin Brigade from 1988-91. The junior man was 30-year-old Blair Hess, who served two tours with the Army in Iraq.
Blair is also son-in-law to Tribal Elder Lewis Younger, himself an Air Force veteran who served from 1971-74.
On Saturday, the Veterans’ Special Event Board, which hosts the powwow each year, sponsored an Honor Dance for Tribal Elder Gene LaBonte, who turned 71 that day.
In addition, Sixkiller’s grandson, Silus Sixkiller, 4, hosted a Tiny Tots Special for attendees 6 and under in regalia, to honor Silus’ birthday.
Tony Whitehead was whip man. The husband-and-wife team of Deitrich and Rose Peters were head man and woman.
Wayne Chulik, Patty Coffey and Tom Smith carried Eagle staffs during grand entries this year. Honor Guard included Chulik, Gene LaBonte and Wink Soderberg.
An Owl dance, a Team dance, Hoop dances and Grass dances were supported throughout the weekend by drums from far and near, including Iron Lung, Johonaaii, Little River, Eagle Warrior, Turquoise Price, Signal Butte and Autumn Creek. Navajo Gourd dancers from southern Oregon also gave an exhibition.
The Aztec Dancers, mostly from the Salem area, stepped in at the last minute with an exhibition “and did a great job,” according to Dakota Whitecloud, chair of the Veterans’ Special Event Board.
Royalty, both present and future, were on hand in force and included Elizabeth Watson-Croy, Amelia Mooney, Iyana Holmes, Sasheen Baker, Amaryssa Mooney, Nikia Mooney, Kaleigha Simi, Madison Ross, Kiana Leno, Makenzie Aaron, Kialiyah Krehbiel, Nakoosa Moreland and Kallie Provost.
The Culture Committee, under the watchful eye of Tribal Elder Betty Bly, hosted a crafts booth with beading, coloring and painting for children. Chalino Randall, 9, made a bead necklace “for my mom,” he said, and also had been painting and coloring on Saturday afternoon.
His sister, Hanna Randall, also 9, was making necklaces for her two sisters and her mother. May Conrad, 8, beaded a necklace for herself.
Booths also included the Roofers Apprenticeship Preparation Training and Occupational Readiness (RAPTOR) program and the Veterans Benefits Administration. The Veterans’ Special Event Board held raffles of items donated by vendors to support the board’s annual powwow work.
Vendors sold Navajo “horse hair” pottery made with red and white clay, so-called because it is decorated with horse hair impressions. Artisans sold yew and hazelnut bows and arrows, with buffalo hide quivers. Steel, stone and bone knives and hatchets were available, as were gourd vessels made with leather dye and sandstone and granite paint.
The powwow, held under the big tent, saw hot days and cool evenings, sometimes with an intimate, family atmosphere, and sometimes busy and bustling. It competed with two other powwows here in the Northwest.
“I think it went very well,” said Whitecloud. “Never heard a complaint all weekend. We fed dinner to almost 400 people on Saturday, and we served breakfast on Sunday morning to a couple hundred people, if not more.”
Whitecloud said a whole host of folks helped put the event together, including Public Affairs Director Siobhan Taylor and Graphic Design Specialist George Valdez; all the veterans and the Honor Guard. “The crew of 13, hired through the Tribe’s Human Resources Department, did a great job,” Whitecloud said. “Everybody just seemed to work together this year. Everything just worked. And it went real well.”
She also thanked Royalty and Veterans’ Special Event Board members Gene LaBonte, Wink Soderberg, Reina Nelson, Bob Duncan and Wayne Chulik.
The T-shirt legend most representative of the veteran spirit? “Impossible is nothing.”