The Gathering of Nations Pow Wow has wrapped up its 31st event with a bang! With comedians, hip hop artists, traditional singers and dancers, and more drums than anyone could count, an estimated 3,000 people, some from all over the world, attended this year’s festivities. Taylor Thomas, Shoshone-Bannock, from Pocatello, Idaho, was crowned the 2014 Miss Indian World on Saturday night.
Announcer Larry Yazzie, roving emcee, told ICTMN that the crowd this year was as big and enthusiastic as ever. “It was a mild 80 degrees, and there was no breeze but a lot of spirit!” Yazzie exclaimed. “You know, despite the economy, I never seen this Gathering of Nations decline. If anything, it’s gotten stronger. Indians love to dance no matter the weather, the economy, even the physical condition of the individual. This is a time of healing, of bringing out the good medicine to show people we are here, alive and strong,” Yazzie said.
At Friday night’s Grand Entry, there were about 1,500 dancers but Saturday was when an enormous crowd really turned out. Ernie Tsosie, comedian, actor, and motivational speaker of 49 Laughs, was on hand to warm up the crowd by throwing out one-liners.
Tsosie said that whenever he meets people, “The number one question I get, is ‘Do you have a joke?’” he laughed. “What do ya call a blushing rez girl? Chey–enne!” Tsosie smiled. “What do you call an Indian at the zoo? A Zuni!” he continued, getting warmed up. “What do you get when you cross a rez dog and Dalmatian? A reservation!” which brought a big laugh.
This was 49 Laughs’ third time performing at Gathering of Nations. Tsosie said the group of comedians had just come from a casino gig in Tucson. “There’s five of us; four guys and one gal, Pax Harvey, James Junes, Adrianne Chalepah, and usually Tatanka Means, but he didn’t make it here this time.”
Inez Jasper, hip hop/pop singer, said this was her first visit to Gathering of Nations, and she was so excited to be there. “I have heard so many good things about this. People drive here or fly here, and there is so much going on! It’s not only the pow wow, there’s the art market, too. It’s so busy, it’s solid people! At the hotels, there are no cancellations, people are looking to crash with friends and scrambling to find a place to stay.”
The hotels were indeed packed. Mayor Richard J. Berry’s office reported that more than 52,000 room nights were booked and virtually all of the hotels were completely sold out. More than 100,000 people from all over the world came to Albuquerque this week, which brought about $21 million into the city.
The mayor couldn’t be reached directly for comment, because he was deep in the crowd at the Gathering of Nations. However, he sent a message from the pow wow instead. “As Mayor, we are proud to be the host city for this gathering of Native Americans from throughout the world, which is the largest of its kind and honors the many different nations and cultures and their people.“
Theresa Bear Fox and the ladies who sing with her, came all the way from Akwesasne, Canada, and spoke with ICTMN after they finished their set. As singer and writer of the songs, Bear Fox heads up the group and most of her songs are composed in the Akwesasne language. The songs are being taught to children back home, she said, as a way of continuing the language. Bear Fox beamed about the massive pow wow event. “Everybody’s all dressed in the regalia, it’s filling up inside, everyone’s getting ready for Grand Entry!”
“We are from Upstate NY and around Quebec,” she said. “This is the second time we’ve been here. We always like it. Everybody is pretty nice, and we make new friends.” With a burst of excitement she called out, “I think I just saw Susan Aglukark! I think she’s playing after us!”
Amidst giggles, Junie Fox, Bear Fox band mate, said, “It’s great to be here back in my own stomping grounds, I went to school here. I was really excited that we got to play in the pit!” (University of New Mexico Arena “The Pit”)
Bear Fox said that for her, the highlight of the pow wow was sharing her songs and language with so many people. Asked to describe the event, she said, “There’s lots of color and it’s really loud in there!”