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Pow Wow celebrates Native American culture

September 16, 2018

SAN BENITO — They stepped slowly, deliberately as the drums throbbed in the background.

Feathered headdresses quivered and faces bowed as moccasined feet moved across the floor yesterday at the Fifth Annual San Benito Native American Cultural Pow Wow.

“This is good that they’re sharing their culture with the community,” said Dirk Yarker, 34. He’d driven from Harlingen to view the festivities at Veteran’s Memorial Academy.

Spectators had driven from as far away as McAllen to see performances by several American Indian groups, including the gourd dancers in observance of military veterans. The gourd dance was sort of a community get together, said Donald Drefke, who is part Cherokee and Shawnee.

“I have been doing this for 40 years,” said Drefke, 65, an Air Force veteran.

“These are my friends,” he said. “It’s for enjoyment and building the community.”

The White Mountain Crown Dancers had traveled from as far as Arizona to perform.

“It’s a lot of prayers and good blessings upon the people,” said Rudy Padilla, one of the dancers who’d come from the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.

Sharon J. Harvey, another one of the crown dancers, said they were all looking forward to giving the dance.

“We like to put ourselves out there,” she said. “It’s a blessing to educate people in our traditions and heritage.”

Spectators appreciated what the Native American people had brought them.

“It’s an amazing experience,” said Cynthia Galvan, who’d traveled from McAllen.

She’d already seen one pow wow this year and had just observed the gourd dance.

“I like the drums, it’s very relaxing and beautiful,” she said.

Many people don’t realize they’re surrounded by Native Americans. Ruben Cordova, program director, has earlier pointed this out, and Anita Anaya expanded on this at the event.

“My mother’s grandmother survived MacKenzie’s raid in 1873,” said Anaya, who is Lipan Apache.

She was referring to a raid by U.S. Army Col. Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, who led troops into Mexico to raid three villages of Kickapoo, Lipan Apache and Mescalero Apache. The villages were burned but most of the people escaped.

“They went underground and passed themselves off as Mexican to survive,” she said. “Our parents didn’t talk to us about this until we were older, like 30 something.”

These days they no longer must conceal their identity. They can celebrate it openly, to the endearing gratitude of many.

twhitehead@valleystar.com

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