Pechanga Pow Wow

Michael Odegaard
February 1, 2023

by Michael Odergaard

According to Pechange Development Corporation President Andrew Masiel, nine years of the $300 million resort expansion and construction, then the Pandemic, delayed the resumption of this big three-day exposition of Native culture and heritage held last January 6-8 at the Pechanga Resort Casino Summit Events Center. “For me, it’s just real giving time for sharing culturally,” Masiel said. “I think it’s very impactful because it does allow Native people to come together and not only participate but share and enhance each other’s individual skills and culture.” Although powwows weren’t a traditional part of Indigenous life among Southern California tribes, he said the local powwow trail has grown in recent decades. Dancers and drummers from as far away as Oklahoma and Saskatchewan were invited to the Pechanga PowWow which had a number of vendors selling everything from jewelry to t-shirts and other native objects and community services. Another feature is the food. The Indian Tacos were definitely a highlight, with large lines waiting to purchase one. 

Many of the dancers and drummers were competing for large cash prizes up to $14,000! The dancers were judged by teams led by Clifton Goodwill (men) and Ashleigh Bonaire (women) and led by head man dancer Nigel Schuyler (Oneida/Odawa), head woman dancer Laryn Oakes (Plains Cree/Meskwaki), head young man dancer Ronald Monoessy, Jr. (Comanche) and head young woman dancer Lucky Rosales (Ojibwe). Dance competition categories among groups of Elders (70+), Golden Age, Senior Adults and Junior Adults, Teens, and Juniors included Womenʻs combined, Menʻs combined, Northern, Southern, Fancy/Grass, Fancy/Jingle, Northern Traditional, Straight, Buckskin/Cloth, Dance, Grass, Chicken, Jingle, Traditional, and Fancy styles. This year’s powwow emcees were Bart Powaukee (Nez Perce/Northern Ute) and Howie Thompson (Carry the Kettle Nakoda Nation), and bird singing was coordinated by Robert Villalobos (Pechanga). Drumming groups included: Black Otter, Indian Hill, Motown, Southern Style, the Boys and Warpaint, as well as judged by the team led by judge Jason Whitehouse.