Andrew Phipps

Get to 'Tha Pow Wow' This Weekend

Tish Leizens
5/3/13

A move to an outdoor venue in San Bernardino, California, and prize money of  $85,000 will most likely energize performers and spectators bound for the intertribal Third Annual Tha Pow Wow, May 3 to 5.

(And yes, if you're wondering if Tha Native is involved in Tha Pow Wow, you're right. He sponsors the event. Tha Native is nominated for four NAMMYs this year, which will be awarded May 10 at the gala hosted by the Seneca Nation at the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel.)

Vernon Motschman, chairman of the pow wow, said they are moving the gathering half a block away from the National Orange Show fairgrounds to San Manuel Stadium, home of Minor League Baseball's Inland Empire 66ers. 

“Lots of dancers prefer to dance on grass,” said Motschman, a member of Three Affiliated Tribes, Mandan, Hidatsa and Akira Nation, from Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

He said he expects visitors in excess of last year’s 7,000 and more than 400 dancers to come.

After a slow start when they launched the pow wow, Motschman said the gathering is getting recognized with the help of the same head staff they’ve had since the beginning, along with increased local publicity.

Motschman said the head staff, which includes Rusty Gillette, arena director; Juaquin Hamilton, dance judge; and Randy Paskemin, drum judge; are helping to promote the event.

The pow wow is billed as a “Weekend of Bird Singing and Dancing.” And while their posters advertise a $75,000 in prize money, Motschman said another $10,000 is coming from other sponsors, such as, the Riverside San Bernardino County Indian Health (RSBCIHI), for the specials lined up.

“It is always a mix up, depending on the categories,” he said about the specials that are not yet finalized. Last year, he said there were a total of nine specials but normally it should be from 10 to 12.

Six age groups, from junior girls and boys, ages 6 to 13, to senior golden age men combined and senior golden age women combined, with ages 65 and up, are competing in the dance prize money.

Dancers will be competing in the northern and southern traditional, grass, chicken, fancy and jingle dances. The highest pay out for the first prize in the varied categories is $600 followed by $400, $300 and $100.

Meanwhile, a total of $29,500 await eight drum winners, with highest prize at $8,000 and the lowest prize at $500. 

“Our biggest message is that we are giving back to our people. Come out, have a good time, be safe and enjoy song and dance,” said Motschman, who has been with RSBCIHI since 1994. He is a licensed advanced alcohol and drug counselor and currently coordinator of the organization’s Native American Resource Center.

“We are not trying to make money. Tribal families and the agency are giving out money,” he said, adding that there are about 12 tribes in the San Bernardino area. He added that it was also important for them as organizers to disseminate health information.

Motschman started thinking of a pow wow after his mother, who also worked for RSBCIHI, passed away four years ago. He was backed and supported by the agency and his friend Paakuma Galvez whose aunt also passed.

In San Bernardino, he said there are several different health care facilities they work with, as well as educational programs for the Native community.

To pow wow guests, he said, “Learn your culture. Be healthy.”

For more information on Tha Pow Wow, click here.

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