The annual Veterans Recognition Powwow on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is a competitive powwow and social gathering to honor and remember Community members who have served our country. It is a time to reflect, dance and pray for those loved ones.
From Friday, April 11 to Sunday, April 13, the Veterans Recognition Powwow took place at the Salt River Ballfield. Every year the powwow honors selected Community members for their service in the armed forces. This year the honoree was Dixon Andreas and his family. Andreas served as a radio operator during World War II.
The powwow is hosted by American Legion “Bushmasters” Post #114. This year’s color guard also included veterans from Silver City, New Mexico, and Gilbert’s American Legion Post 39.
On Friday evening, vendors set up their stands, and dancers and the color guard kicked things off with a blessing of the arena, followed by the entry of the colors. Shortly after the introduction, the events were underway with the Bird Singing and Dancing contest. With a black sky in the background, in-sync voices filled the air accompanied by the sound of gourds rattling. The six categories for the first night’s contests were Tiny Tots, Women’s, Men’s, Couple, Young Men’s Singing and Men’s Singing.
On Saturday, the arena was blessed with perfect weather for dancing and singing. Festivities began with the Veterans Recognition Parade, which traveled from the Two Waters building at Longmore and Osborn roads to the Community Building.
After some gourd dancing and veterans recognition dances, spectators and dancers took a dinner break to relax and enjoy what the vendors had to offer. As the sun set and the cool night set in, preparations were made for the second night of powwow dancing. There were Teen Boys contests in grass, fancy and straight dancing; Golden Age was another category for both men and women; and finally, the much-anticipated fancy spotlight dancing took place. This year’s winners included Gabriel Scabby and Desirae Red House.
Before the start of the main events, the color guard from New Mexico retrieved the flag and presented it to Iris Andreas-Echols, the daughter of veteran Dixon Andreas.
“This is just a real blessing and beautiful. We are very happy he was recognized in this way. He would have been very honored,” said Andreas-Echols. Also present were his daughters Doris Andreas Osif, Annette Ortega, Lorna Andreas and Arlene Ortega, as well as Dixon’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“Being able to raise his flag over the powwow grounds is a reminder of the strong, silent will that he possessed as a husband, father, grandfather and combat veteran. He was a good man … and to be recognized and honored as such by other veterans is something as a family that we are so very grateful and proud to be a part of,” said Edward “Pacer” Reina, Dixon’s grandson.
Afterward, a few intertribal dances took place and the spotlight dancing began. This year’s winners were Gabriel Scabby for the mens and Desirae Red house for the womens. Closing the evening with positive energy, the day came to end.
The powwow started its final day on Sunday morning with the posting of the colors and some gourd dancing. The competitive dancing stretched into the early evening.
“The committee did a great job! The Red Mountain Riders worked tirelessly in putting together [the parade] and getting the word out,” explained Reina. “We were all pleased to see some great entries.” With the addition of contests to the powwow, the committee faced some challenges in remaining true to the intent of the powwow, which is to remain focused on veterans, Reina explained. “The scheduling of contests this year really had to be looked at and planned carefully. But as a team, the group worked through the hurdles and hoops and put together, as one event-goer mentioned, ‘A really good powwow … I had a lot of fun.’”
The annual Veterans Recognition Powwow came from the mind of Joel Jefferson, a Community veteran who is now deceased but lives on through his memorial dance at the powwow. Jefferson’s plan was to have a social powwow hosted by American Legion “Bushmasters” Post #114 with the ultimate goal of honoring and recognizing all Community veterans for their service in the U.S. armed forces. The event originally started out as a Mother’s Day powwow held in May; while the event was a success, the temperatures in May aren’t so kind. After much thought and planning, the powwow committee ended up moving the powwow to April.
The Veterans Recognition Powwow is a traditional Southern-style event. If you or someone you know wishes to learn, participate, volunteer or join the Powwow Committee, email Reina at Edward.Reina@srpmic-nsn.gov.