The 29th annual Gathering of Nations (GON) has almost arrived. On April 27 and 28, this grandest of grand assemblages will take place at the University of New Mexico’s Arena, the Pit, in downtown Albuquerque.
By any objective indicators, the Gathering is a landmark event.
In 2010, President Obama addressed the attendees on the jumbotron at UNM’s football field, becoming the first sitting president ever to do so. The resulting album, Gathering of Nations Pow Wow: A Spirit’s Dance won a Grammy for best Native American music album. Every year, Albuquerque’s population of 867,000 grows by roughly 10 percent when the Gathering comes to town.
More than 500 tribes from the United States and Canada will bring more than 3,000 dancers and singers, making the Gathering of Nations one of the largest pow wows in the world. Some of this year’s dance contests and head staff special contests include a midnight special men’s grass vs. men’s chicken competition, a women’s all-around special, a teen boy’s traditional special and teen girls fancy shawl. The GON gives out more than $200,000 in cash and prizes in 32 different dance categories.
Another spectacular draw is the famous Indian Traders Market. Possibly the largest display of intercultural arts and crafts in the country, the market offers more than 800 artists, traders and crafters in one place, displaying their work for sale.
The epic three-day event kicks off, as it always does, with the Miss Indian World Talent presentations. These will take place on the evening of Thursday, April 26 at the Albuquerque Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Last year’s Miss Indian World, Marjorie Tahbone, Inupiaq/Kiowa, will be on hand to pass off the crown. At the end of the judging, some deserving young woman will emerge as the winner and begin a year-long commitment of traveling from coast to coast, representing all of Indian country.
A major reason why the Gathering is so special is the musicians and performers who populate the famous Stage 49 in the Pit. Stage 49 is a showcase for contemporary music that covers a wide range of styles, from country to reggae, from hip-hop to rock and roll, from traditional Native music to jam bands. It is often a major launching pad for new talent, giving young artists the chance to perform in front of tens of thousands of people. Rock and blues bands like Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (who performed on the Late Show With David Letterman on April 3), the Plateros and Twice As Good will be sharing the stage with a variety of performers.
Some of those performers include comedy acts (like the hilarious Tito Ybarra), contortionist Andrea Rose Thompson, pop stars Dey & Nite, hip-hop artist Lakota Jonez, flutist Randy Granger and the Tenochtitlan Aztec Dancers.
GON is one of the most vibrant weekends of the year, rivaling Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnivalin South America.
But really, the only way to get a sense of it is to get a ticket and see for yourself. Here is some useful information if you plan on going:
The Gathering is being held at the University of New Mexico’s basketball arena. The arena is located on the university’s south campus at 1414 University Blvd SE, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
You can buy in advance at www.gatheringofnations.com/history/powwow_2012/advance_tickets.htm
To buy tickets in person for the Miss Indian World Talent Presenation, they are available on Thursday,April 26, 2012 from nine a.m. to three p.m. Credit cards are not accepted at the door.
Tickets for the MIW Talent Presentation will also be available at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the day of the show at Will Call.
One-Day Admission (no reentry for pow wow, Stage 49 & Traders Market):
Friday, April 27: $17
Saturday: April 28: $17
Two-Day Wrist Band (full in-and-out privileges for pow wow, Stage 49 & Traders Market):
Friday and Saturday, April 27 and 28: $34.