After mortgaging her house, selling her car and battling controversy on how to manage the business affairs of a pow wow, Moreena Rocha Chavez, Apache, can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Four years after she resuscitated the Mother Earth Traditional Pow Wow, the 60-year old grandmother has proven that with determination, focus and prayer, a community can be brought back together again.
On May 4 and 5, at the Mojave Narrows Regional Park, in Victorville, California, Chavez and her non-profit group Mother Earth’s People Inter-tribal Council will again demonstrate their pride in showcasing Native culture in the Fourth Annual Mother Earth Pow Wow.
“This has been years of much teaching and not a easy road, but I have to admit a road I was meant to take—hard as it has been,” said Chavez, who expects 30,000 people to come to the pow wow, 5,000 more than the previous year and a far cry from 2,000 visitors in 2010.
Chavez is not keen on letting history pass by and talks of this year’s gathering as the 21st year of Native celebration.
“What happened was that the pow wow after going for 17 years was canceled due to personalities,” said Chavez, who got on board in 2009 to try and help fix the problem.
The rest of the story, as the jovial Chavez relates it, is her calling. She was disappointed that her granddaughter who was coming out the year it was canceled can no longer do it and that the pow wow that gave her joy and kept her connected to her roots was gone.
“I went to Gary Yellowhorse’s home. He was so much like me. He lived a simple life,” said Chavez of one of the founders of the pow wow. “I prayed with him, and we talked. I knew right away I was in trouble.”
After Yellowhorse, Miniconjou Sioux, a Native American flutist, explained the situation to Chavez, she thought: “We have to roll up our sleeves and we have to work.”
“In the beginning, I had to put up my house [to raise money],” she said, inspired by wheelchair-bound Yellowhorse. “Gary lived for the people. He gave 17 years of his life for the pow wow.”
Yellowhorse passed away in 2010 but not after he passed the baton to Chavez who recalled him saying a blessing: “This is a big circle. Build it and it will come.”
The pow wow circle has definitely grown since they resurrected it in a new venue. The 840 acres of Mojave Narrows Regional Park is now home to a popular annual event, which packs in a lot of educational demonstrations such as basket weaving, making dreamcatchers, musical instruments, and wildlife awareness.
“In 2010 when Gary passed away, we had no strong support,” said Chavez. She sold her car just so one of most respected drums, Black Lodge Singers, could perform at the pow wow.
Today, there are more than 40 tribes that come to the pow wow and well over 100 dancers.
“Each year it gets bigger. Last year, we added the food court. This year we are expanding the educational area.”
Chavez said the local Girl Scouts in the area have indicated they are coming this year. A national group, the Native American Killed in Action Group, will also have a presence. The performers include Californians Steve Rushingwind, an award-winning flute player, and drum Blue Star, and Mexico's Cuauhtemoc Aztec Dancers.
“It’s been an amazing trial for our group. A lot of people are involved now. We’ve been blessed by a lot of people. There is so much diversity. They have come because they respect the Native American community.”
For more information on the Fourth Annual Mother Earth Pow Wow, go to MotherEarthPowWow.com.