Experience the energy of a drum circle, the exhilaration of traditional dancing and the appeal of time-honored hand games at one of Nevada’s many American Indian cultural events this summer. The Silver State is home to several American Indian tribes — including the Paiute, Washoe and Western Shoshone — that live in various bands or groups throughout the state, and that showcase their individual heritage at annual powwows and special events.
“By opening powwows and other events to the public, Nevada’s American Indian community not only preserves its traditions, but shares them with others,” Larry Friedman, NCOT interim director, said. “These communities are a vital part of Nevada’s story, one that continues to develop and grow.”
Nevada’s American Indian tribes work together to promote and market themselves through the Nevada Indian Territory, a nonprofit arm of the Nevada Commission on Tourism and important resource for those interested in Nevada’s American Indian culture. Indian Territory offers information about powwows and other cultural activities, as well as information on the proper protocol to follow at these events.
Here’s a look at some upcoming summer events:
- Sacred Visions Powwow, July 22-24 at Big Bend Ranch, 50 Big Bend Ranch Road in Wadsworth. Now in its third year, this event organized by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe gets going with grand entries at 7 p.m. July 22, at noon and 7 p.m. July 23 and noon July 24. The schedule includes hand-game tournaments, dance competitions and drumming contests. Royalty will be crowned July 22, there’s a fun run and walk on July 23, and American Indian crafts and food vendors will be open throughout. For those who like to rough it, there’s free camping. To learn more, contact William Wadsworth at 775-575-7063 or visit the website www.sacredvisionspowwow.com.
- Wa She Shu It Deh arts festival, July 23-24 at Tallac Historic Site in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California offers this festival that includes a basket-weaving competition, native dancers, music and arts and crafts. Known for their skills in basket-weaving, the Washoe are the tribe of Dat So La Lee, the famous artisan whose baskets, woven during the late 1800s and early 1900s, are on display at the Smithsonian and other museums. The Washoe Tribe offers information on Dat So La Lee’s life and the Washoe history and culture at its website, www.washoetribe.us.
- Ely Shoshone Tribe Fandango, July 29-31 at the Wappin do-Ya-Be Center, 250 Heritage Drive in Ely. Take in traditional activities — including exhibition drummers and dancers, and a hand-game tournament — as well as recreational fun. A horseshoe tournament, volleyball tournament, archery competition, fun run/walk and more are scheduled for the Ely Shoshone Tribe Fandango. Events begin with a 7 p.m. opening ceremony on July 29, continue with a parade at 11 a.m. July 30 and conclude with a volleyball tournament and card games on July 31. For more information or to sign up for a tournament, call 775-289-5373.
- Spirit of Wovoka Days, Aug. 26-28 at the Joe Parr Sports Complex in Yerington. This event honors Wovoka, the Northern Paiute and religious leader who founded the Ghost Dance Movement in the late 1880s in Yerington. The peaceful movement spread to tribes throughout the West, but due to misunderstandings, led to the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 on the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Today, Wovoka’s significance in the history of Nevada and the United States is remembered in a powwow that includes drumming contests, traditional dancing and the Wovoka Princess contest. A downloadable pdf with information on Spirit of Wovoka Days can be found at Nevada Indian Territory.
Other noteworthy events include the Stewart Father’s Day Powwow, held every June on the grounds of the historic Stewart Indian School in Carson City, and the Walker River Paiute Tribe’s annual pine nut festival, which honors the traditional fall pine nut harvest.
Those are just a few of the events showcasing Nevada’s rich and complex American Indian cultures. For a comprehensive listing and for information on individual tribes and groups, see Nevada Indian Territory, or see the July/August issue of Nevada Magazine, a special edition on Indian Territory.