Diego James Robles
Monica Jacome, Kumeyaay, 18, plays with her brother Dakota during a break in the action, during the American Indian Heritage Pow Wow.

American Heritage Powwow Draws Diverse Crowd in Downtown San Diego

Diego James Robles

Surrounded by tall commercial buildings and a busy downtown scene, more than 1,000 people attended the American Indian Heritage Pow Wow, a two-day event in San Diego’s Balboa Park on May 10-11. The intertribal exhibition pow wow, a type becoming rare these days because of the popularity of larger competition pow wows, was organized by the American Indian Heritage Committee, the San Diego Unified School District’s Title VII Indian Education Program and San Diego American Indian Health Center.

Pow wow founder, organizer and announcer, Randy Edmonds, Kiowa/Caddo, said the goal of the pow wow was to, “brings many different tribes together to celebrate their traditions, their culture through song and dance, prayer and the gathering of different tribal groups to come together as a Native people.” Edmonds, who is originally from Oklahoma, said he started the pow wow in 1978 to boost economic opportunity for local Natives. He wanted them to have a place to sell their wares and their food, at least once a year.

David Shockey, had one of the more popular booths amongst the few dozen or so encircling the pow wow grounds. Surrounded by an assortment of ancient tools, fossils, old bones, hand-made bows, ropes, pottery and other primitive artifacts, Shockey passionately informed curious people walking by and anybody who would stop and listen, that all of these “old things” came from San Diego and were once used by people to survive and even thrive before the advent of recorded human history.

“This represents the material culture from the last 13,000 years,” Shockey says while picking up diverse things and describing their primary use, as well as what he suspects were their secondary uses.

“I want to honor the people who lived here for thousands of years,” he adds while handling an aquatic carrying net.Nichole Garcia, Paiute, applies paint on her son, Randy, 6, moments before grand entry, on Saturday afternoon, May 10, in San Diego’s Balboa Park. The American Indian Heritage Pow Wow started in 1978 as a way to give Native artists and vendors a platform to sell their wares. (Diego James Robles)


The pow wow, or this type of low-key non-competition pow wow was something new for 12-year-old Alexandria Roubideaux. The Southern Ute/Kiowa/Caddo dancer from Ignacio, Colorado, represents her tribe as the Jr. Miss Southern Ute Powwow Princess.

“The pow wow is okay.There are more people who dress differently than in Colorado,” she said about the number of diverse of people and their style that she’s not use to seeing in pow wows on her reservation. Nonetheless, Roubideaux was happy to see something different including the beach; something her land-locked state does not have.


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