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Update: 2024 Gourd Dance and Intertribal Powwow changes location

Family-friendly event features drumming, dancing and food
Left to right, Shawn Blackhorse, Lesean Blackhorse and Adam Black perform the annual Gourd Dance, a dance practiced by many tribes to signify a communal offering, according to Angelo Baca, of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe.

Because of high winds and low temperatures, the 2024 Gourd Dance and Powwow will take place Saturday, April 6, at the Learning Commons Plaza, also known as Graduation Plaza, at San Juan College.

Food vendors will also be set up in the Plaza. The Native Arts and Crafts Fair will be moved inside to the Suns Lounge, located on the second floor above Mary’s Kitchen. Mary’s Kitchen is adjacent to the Learning Commons Plaza.

The Native Arts & Crafts Fair will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., with food vendors serving from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Gourd Dance starts at 12 p.m., and the Powwow Grand Entry begins at 6 p.m.

The event is free.

For more information please visit the SJC Native American Center on Facebook at facebook.com/sjcnac.

“The Powwow has been a long-standing tradition at San Juan College and were usually held in the fall months,” said Sherry Curry-Graves, public relations coordinator for San Juan College, in an email Wednesday.

She said during the pandemic the event was canceled for safety reasons, with the most recent one held in 2022. The 2023 event was postponed from the fall to this spring.

The Gourd Dance

The origin of the Gourd Dance is disputed, but many Native Americans trace it to a Kiowa story that recounts the tale of a young man who had been separated from the rest of the tribe. The young man, hungry and dehydrated, approached a hill and heard an unusual kind of singing coming from the other side.

The legend states that he “saw a red wolf singing and dancing on its hind legs.” He listened to songs all afternoon and through the night. When morning came the wolf spoke to him and told him to take the dance and songs back to his people.

“The howl at the end of each gourd dance song is a tribute to the red wolf. The Kiowa Gourd Dance was once part of the Kiowa Sun Dance ceremony,” according to Wikipedia.

The Wagner family of Cortez practices traditional Native American dances in powwows across the country. They performed traditional songs and dances at an Indigenous Peoples Day event held for Battle Rock school students at the Cortez Cultural Center.

Powwow is a “celebration of American Indian culture in which people from diverse Indigenous nations gather for the purpose of dancing, singing, and honoring the traditions of their ancestors.”

“The term powwow, which derives from a curing ritual, originated in one of the Algonquin nations of the Northeast Indians,” according to this Britannica.com.

Bleacher seating will be provided by the city of Farmington. Attendees are encouraged to bring chairs, blankets, and stake-less canopies to ensure comfort throughout the day.

Brandon Ashley, Native American center director at San Juan College, said they plan to continue the “tradition by returning the gourd dance and powwow on an annual basis.”

He said a they have a “planning powwow committee that meets regularly to help sort out key items for organizing an event of this size.”

Ashley, who assumed the director position in November 2023, expects a large turnout approaching 1,000.

In the case of inclement weather, Ashley said that do have an alternate location available. “Weather is always unpredictable this time of the year; so we try to do our best to monitor weather conditions and continue our events outside,” he said.

Ashley said their biggest challenge is “competing with other powwows and events. The Powwow circuit continues to grow over the years. So finding the right drum groups, master of ceremonies, and the arena director is competitive.”

Event features

Otis Halfmoon (Nez Percé) will serve as master of ceremonies and Kenny Brown (Arapahoe/Cree/Arikara) will be the arena director.

The Northern Host Drum will be The Horses (Navajo), and Southwest Singers (All Nations) will be the Southern Host Drum.

Ashley said, “the 2024 Gourd Dance & Intertribal Powwow embodies the San Juan College Native American Center’s spirit of unity and heritage. “We are thrilled to provide this platform for our community to unite and honor our varied rich traditions.”

Sponsors include San Juan College Foundation, One Book One Community, city of Farmington, and Raytheon Technologies.

It is an alcohol-free event, with the public welcome to bring their own food and beverages.

For more information, please contact the SJC Native American Center at (505) 566-3321 or find them on Facebook at facebook.com/sjcnac.