The voice of Phillip Hale fills the halls of the Autry National Center as he begins the song, drum beats reverberating from the well-worn powwow drum before him. Dancers respond, keeping time to the beat, moving in a clockwise circle around the drum, brilliantly colored shawls over street clothes, children and adults alike enjoying a mid-week, mini powwow.
The Intertribal Dance Workshop takes place throughout the school year every Tuesday evening. Sponsored by Disney and carried out as a joint effort of Phillip Hale of the Southern California Indian Center, and Jorge Lechuga of the Wildhorse Native American Association and United American Indian Involvement, the workshop’s purpose is to help urban Indian children learn the dance styles of the contemporary powwow.
Mentors such as Christian Smith demonstrate and teach the steps of the fancy shawl and jingle dress dance; David Patterson leads an entourage of young boys around the drum, imitating his style at the men’s southern straight dance. After two songs from the southern drum, known throughout southern California as Hale and Company, Wildhorse picks up the beat with their northern style of singing. Austin Hernandez, of the Cherokee and Choctaw nations, swings into a grass dance, and soon has his own following of young dancers. The steps aren’t easy to emulate at first, but native children seem quick to pick up the rhythm. Many people believe that with one’s heritage comes a genetic memory, an ancestral calling to dance, sing, and respond to the drum.
For an hour and a half, there is singing, dancing, drumming and sharing laughter. And then, all too soon, it is over. For urban Native American people, these workshops are like family get-togethers, and that family is always growing.
The contemporary Native American powwow serves a vital social function for native people; it is a time when people from many tribes, many nations can come together in an atmosphere of shared acceptance and understanding. The powwow is often the closest thing urban people have to a direct connection to their heritage. The cultural significance of the powwow in a metropolitan center cannot be overestimated. It may be the only place where urban native children can witness, learn about and participate in their culture. It is as close as many urban Indians ever get to experiencing a tribal way of life, where shared and accepted cultural values are implicit and where people can meet others of like mind and spirit.
And equally important, the powwow, in all its contemporary glory, is a celebration whose deeper function is the perpetuation of a living cultural identity and practice. Songs and dances both ancient and new are a part of the powwow ‘” these are shared, learned and repeated by a new generation of native people, and reinforced in the memory of the community through the sheer joy of participation.
There is no cost to participate in the Intertribal Dance Workshops. They are held in alternating locations; one at the Autry National Center located in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, and one at the Native American United Methodist Church in Anaheim. The workshops begin at 7:30 p.m. and end at 9 p.m.
For more information, contact Phillip Hale of the Southern California Indian Center at (714) 962-6673.
2010/2011 Intertribal Dance Workshop Schedule
Autry National Center
4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, CA 90027
October 19, 2010
November 2, 16, 30, 2010
December 14, 2010
January 11, 25, 2011
February 8, 22, 2011
March 8, 22, 2011
April 5, 19, 2011
May 3, 17, 31, 2011
June 14, 2011
Native American United Methodist Church
800 South Lemon Street, Anaheim, CA 92805
October 26, 2010
November 9, 23, 2010
December 7, 2010
January 4, 18, 2011
February 1, 15, 2011
March 1, 15, 29, 2011
April 12, 26, 2011
May 10, 24, 2011
June 7, 2011