Dancer from the 2009 Inaugural Pow Wow (Courtesy Vincent Schilling)

New Year Tradition Endures With Inaugural Ball in Virginia

Tish Leizens
January 01, 2013


A four-day extravaganza with live entertainment provided by accomplished drums, dancers and singers is awaiting some 1,000 guests who are traveling to Arlington, Virginia, January 18 – 21, to attend the 12th American Indian Inaugural Ball.

Dancer from the 2009 Inaugural Pow Wow (Courtesy Vincent Schilling)

The event, to be held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott and presented by the American Indian Society (AIS) of Washington, D.C., promises to be a great homecoming, particularly for those who only see each other every four years.

Over four decades ago, a group of Native Americans came together and decided to host the first Inaugural Ball to coincide with the Presidential Inauguration of Richard Nixon. It has been a tradition ever since then.

“I am honored to be a part of this event for the simple reason that it brings our people together for a grand time,” said Steve Hill, (Seneca) first vice president of the AIS, vice chair of the Inaugural Ball Working Group, and head of the Gala Entertainment.

“We want to reach out to every person. Come and support us and look at the good things Native Americans do,” said Hill, citing that in the past 30 years AIS has raised half a million dollars for scholarships and other educational programs for Native Americans.

The four-day event this January starts with a Lounge Reception on Friday, the Inaugural Ball Pow Wow on Saturday, the American Indian Inaugural Ball—highlighted by the presentation of the Lifetime Legacy Awards—on Sunday and a brunch on Monday.

2009 Inaugural Pow Wow (Courtesy Vincent Schilling)

Those involved in organizing the event have a long history of serving the Native community. The 2013 Inaugural Ball Chairman is Peter J. Homer, Jr. (Mohave, Shasta, Colorado River Indian Tribe), founder, president and CEO of the National Indian Business Association.

Tex G. Hall, “Ihbudah Hishi” or “Red Tipped Arrow”  (Mandan, Hidatsa ad Arikara Nation) is honorary chairman. He was former president of National Congress of American Indian and currently serves as chairman of the Inter-Tribal Economic Alliance.

“We expect around 1,000 people to attend with 300 dancers and six to 10 drums,” said Hill. “There will be color guards from all four corners of the nation and a reading of participating nations with a representative bringing grand entry in with their nations flag.”

Preston Tone-Pah-Hote, Jr., (Kiowa), chairman of the powwow, said, “We expect representation from tribes all across United States and Canada to attend and participate in the Pow Wow and Inaugural Ball.”

Dancer from the 2009 Inaugural Pow Wow (Courtesy Vincent Schilling)

Tone-Pah-Hote, a retired federal employee and involved in activities which included Eagle Talon Brotherhood of Kansas City, Missouri, American Indian Society of Pennsylvania, among others, said the pow wow starts at noon, with gourd dancing, head singer Ralph Zotigh and round dancing by the Boyz at 4 p.m.

“Also an elders circle will be conducted by Preston Tonepahhote Sr. at 3 p.m. to discuss issues and concerns throughout Indian country. Grand entry is at 6 pm, with inter-tribal dancing, and a special will be held for all the legacy award winners,” he said.

Head dancers for the pow wow are Charles Belisle (St. Croix Ojibwa) and Dora BirdsHead (Crow Tribe of Montana). Dayrl Swift (Sioux) and Kevin Tarrant (Hopi-Ho Chunk) will serve as arena directors.

The powwow chairman said the The Boyz from St. Paul, Minnesota is the Northern host drum, while The Zotigh Singers from Albuquerque, Mexico is the Southern host.

Michael Bucher performing at the 2009 Inaugural Pow Wow (Courtesy Vincent Schilling)

Alexis Hill (Seneca, Ojibwa and Santa Ana Pueblo) and Preston “Buddy” Tone-Pah-Hote III (Kiowa/Onieda) are young girl and boy head dancers. The Master of Ceremony for the gourd dance is Cy Ahtone (Kiowa, and a member of the Kiowa Gourd Clan). Keith Coleston (Tuscarora) is MC for Saturday evening.

Hill said dance specials are scheduled for the evenings, with trophies given to best female and male dancers. He said to expect all types of dances at the event, even smoke dance.

Michael Bucher, a Cherokee singer-songwriter and multi-Native American Music Award winner will entertain guests. Bucher and his album “Believe,” in 2010, won the Best Folk Recording at the 12 Annual Native American Awards as well as several nominations.

“A lot of people come from to see their friends. It is a warm gathering. It is about having fun,” said Hill. “We do it to honor our people.” 


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