The audience joins the group in the Whirlwind dance; dancers Brianna Adams, Misty Hayes, and Celeste Adams help lead.



By Janet Johnson
Special for Au-Authm Action News

A young girl’s request to attend a pow-wow in Hawaii turned into a wonderful trip that many were able to experience together. In May, 32 members of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and two members from the Gila River Indian Community attended the Fifth Annual Hilo Inter-Tribal Pow-wow on the Big Island of Hawaii. The event took place over Memorial Day Weekend, May 29–31.

The Red Mountain Eagle Pow-wow (RMEP) court began planning the trip to Hilo in January. By the end of February, 15 people were on board. In April, the interest in traveling to Hawaii had increased, with the number of participants at 28. It was a snowball effect. By end of registration in mid-May, the number had topped out at 34.

To prepare for the trip, a group meeting was held to discuss airport logistics, luggage weight and fees, carry-on items, departures and arrivals, the pow-wow schedule and the hotel stay.

The Community was well represented by royalty: Jessica Ruiz, Miss Salt River 2009–10; Daryl Jay, Miss Indian Arizona 2009–10; Alexia Victoria, RMEP Princess 2009–10; Zvlen Washington, RMEP Princess First Attendant 2009–10; and Teya Johnson, former RMEP Princess 2008–09.

A Cultural Exchange
The representation of royalty and members of the Gila and Salt River Indian communities prompted the idea of a cultural exchange of O’odham social dancing. The Hilo Inter-Tribal Pow-wow organizers embraced the idea and a letter of invitation immediately followed, along with information on the event and the island of Hawaii from the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.

In April and May, the Community singers and dancers, ages 6 years and up, began preparing for the cultural exchange. The group selected four songs and dances to share: the Ke:kiwua, Bat’s Cave, Whirlwind and Going Home.

Practices were held at the Salt River Community Building and the Salt River Recreation Football Field. The royalty made handmade crafts in preparation for an O’odham giveaway.

For some of the participants, this was their first airline flight ever; and for many, this was their first trip to the Hawaiian islands. “I’m scared, but excited,” said Cindy Washington as the days moved closer to the departure date of Friday, May 28. The trip was be the first airline flight for the Washington family, who only travel by car. Only six individuals in the group had been to the islands, and only one had been to Hilo. All prepared for the six-hour flight over the Pacific Ocean and the one-hour commuter flight from Honolulu to Hilo. Once on land, everyone was anxious to explore the new surroundings.

Singing and Dancing in Hawaii
The Hilo Inter-tribal Pow-wow was held at Wailoa River State Park, on the banks of the Waiakea Pond, which is fed by the Wailoa River. The group’s performances were scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 29, and Sunday, May 30. The pow-wow opened with a prayer from Hawaiian cultural practitioner Kimo Pihana, and then the royalty participated in the grand entries while Teya Johnson participated in jingle dress dancing and Zvlen Washington danced fancy shawl.

On stage before the group’s first performance, singer Ricardo Leonard provided the history of the Community and gave a description of each dance the group was to perform. The air was very humid, and the audience very tentative and curious to watch the dances and hear the songs. As the gourd began to rattle, the group made their way into the circle. Once in the circle, the dancers locked hands and began to bounce, the singers began, and the dancers took their first step.

The sky was blue with patches of fluffy white clouds and palm trees could be viewed in the distance. The dancers invited the audience to participate in two of the dances, the Whirlwind and Going Home. On Sunday, the group performed a giveaway dance and handed out the gifts made by the royalty and those participating on the trip.

Leonard was interviewed by the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, and the article was featured on the front page of the Sunday edition. The Community was featured in other media as well: the royalty were posted on the Hilo Pow-wow website, the dance performance was posted on YouTube, and an article on the pow-wow was featured in Hawaiian Airlines’ Hana Hou! inflight magazine.

Time for Sightseeing
Everyone had different flight schedules. Some were able to visit the town of Hilo, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a famous black-sand beach and other beaches around Hilo. The highlight for many was swimming with a giant sea turtle. Others in the group flew over to the island of Oahu to Honolulu and were able to visit the Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, Dole Plantation, the Polynesian Cultural Center and Waikiki Beach, just to name a few stops.

The trip to Hawaii was more than a visit to the islands—it was an opportunity to honor, share and educate others about our culture as Native peoples from Salt River and Gila River. It also was a memorable experience for everyone.

The royalty would like to thank their sponsors, David Montiel, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the Gila River Indian Community. The entire group would like to thank the Hilo Inter-Tribal Pow-wow Committee; singers Ricardo Leonard, Mavi Leonard, Courtney Moyah, Kyle Flores and Mick Washington; Naniloa Volcanoes Resort; and Dodie Manuel for her logistical updates.


Pow-wow and Trip Participants

Lead Dancers: Mavi Leonard and Kyle Flores
Dancers: Jessica Ruiz, Daryl Jay, Alexia Victoria, Zvlencee Washington, Teya Johnson, Ana Makil, Zvlen Washington, Alyssa Leonard, Misty Hayes, Marissa Johnson, Brianna Adams, Celeste Adams, Tasbah Villalpando, Helema Andrews, Paula Williams, Marion Ruiz, Janet Johnson, Esther Moyah, Dorine Andrews, Diane Johnson, Leona Andreas, Robin Enos and Kim Enos
Singers: Ricardo Leonard, Mavi Leonard, Courtney Moyah, Michael Washington and Kyle Flores
Assistants: Cindy Washington and Janelle Howard
Attendees: Christine Ray, Herman Dean Ray, Jr., Samuel Adams, Sr., and Samuel Adams, Jr.

Ninety Years of Life Gave Community Elder Many Opportunities
Grant Helps Community Artist Teach an Old Tradition
Community Wellness Program and Expo: Healthy Living Starts from Within