Thousands Gather for 22nd Annual Thunder & Lightning Powwow

Hundreds of Native American dancers dressed in full regalia of leather, fine beadwork and feathers moved skillfully to form a sea of swirling color, motion and music during dancecompetitions at the popular 22nd Annual Morongo Thunder & Lightning Powwow last weekend.

An estimated 30,000 spectators attended the free three-day cultural celebration hosted by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians from Friday, September 28 through Sunday, September 30. Over the course of the weekend, more than 650 Native American dancers of all ages and 25 drum groups from across the U.S. and Canada competed for prize money. “The Morongo Thunder and Lightning Powwow celebrates the diversity of Native American culture and helps to preserve Native American traditions,” said Tribal Chairman Robert Martin of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. “We are delighted every year to see so many visitors and families joining us to experience the beauty of Native American dance and music, and to learn about Native American culture, food and arts and crafts.”

One of the most highly anticipated powwows of the year, the Morongo Thunder & Lightning Powwow included dozens of booths selling authentic Native arts and crafts, including one of a kind jewelry, fine beadwork, and unique pottery, clothing, and basketry items. Native food vendors were on hand selling homemade Indian tacos, tamales and popular Indian frybread.

Morongo’s annual celebration of Native American culture was highlighted by the daily Grand Entry, a tradition that signifies the opening of each Powwow session. The event began with the presentation of colors, including an Eagle Staff, the American flag, the California state flag and the Morongo tribal flag. Morongo 22nd Annual Thunder and Lightning Powwow Following the introduction of visiting tribal dignitaries, the arena quickly transformed into a spectacular sight as hundreds of men, women and children dancing in traditional regalia moved to the sounds of competitive drum groups and singers. The dance troupes and drummers scored points based on regalia, performance and other categories.

The Morongo Thunder & Lightning Powwow also included exhibitions of gourd dancing and bird singing. The bird songs and dances of the Cahuilla Indians chronicle the experiences and responses of the Cahuilla people as they migrated south. Through bird metaphor and allegory, the songs also act as lessons that instruct tribal members about stages in their lives.

The original Cahuilla Bird Songs were composed of more than 300 pieces that formed a cycle of stories. Songs were sung in a precise order that accurately accounted for the chronology of the migration.

The 22nd Annual Morongo Thunder and Lightning Powwow was held at the Morongo Event Center alongside the Morongo Casino, Resort and Spa.

By ICTMN Staff
Indian Country Today
Published October 3, 2012