WADSWORTH — As time passes, traditions tend to take on new meaning. The economic recession has contributed to this kind of evolution in recent years, pinching the coffers of government, shedding jobs in the private sector and sparing no region of the country.
Native communities, as with too many measuring points, have felt the stress of the recession as much as anyone, sometimes more so.
It comes as little surprise then, even if novelty remains, that American Indians have found a way to re-brand the conventional pow-wow as an economic stimulus.
The social gatherings are known for their mesmerizing songs and dance, dress and celebration, but they also now serve more practical interests.
Vendors and small businesses follow the so-called pow-wow trail year-round, traveling from state to state and tribe to tribe selling everything from arrowheads, jewelry and musical instruments to white sage incense, native threads and dream catchers.
“I am like the Native American Wal-Mart,” said Maxine Due, who spends between May and October on the road with her husband, jumping from pow-wow to pow-wow.
Part Cherokee Indian, Maxine set up shop at the Third Annual Sacred Visions Pow-Wow held at the Big Bend Ranch in Wadsworth this weekend.
Sponsored by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, the event drew American Indians from all over the West, with an estimated 150 tribes represented, said master of ceremonies Tom Phillips.
Phillips, of Kiowa ancestry, introduced a native color guard procession on Friday night, a formal kick off to the pow-wow. Song and dance ensued, with men, women and children performing before hundreds of onlookers.
“Once again, we say thank you,” Phillips said over the public address system, a nod to the tradition of the moment.
Robert Piper, 26, finds himself reliving this kind of moment at least once a month.
“I like to be a part of bringing back our culture,” said Piper, who is of Paiute and Shoshone blood.
Marking his first trip to this northern Nevada pow-wow, Piper could be seen banging away on a drum with the rhythmic tendencies that accompany native chants.
Ralph Burns, a leader in the local Paiute community, looked on with great pride and satisfaction.
“It’s a coming together,” he said of the pow-wow, which has grown noticeably since its inception.
Burns was particularly enamored with the Paiute buckskin dancers showing off their unique choreography.
But honoring culture has its own fiscal benefits, too, and pow-wow organizers acknowledge the positive economic impact that could be generated in bringing native and non-native people together for a fun run/walk, arts and crafts, food, contests and more.
“We’ve picked up a little bit this year,” Maxine said of sales at similar events in California held earlier this summer, a trend she hopes will continue at the Sacred Visions pow-wow.
Of course, like many native spiritual myths, goodwill and prosperity cycle together here.
“We don’t only go for the money,” Maxine said, “we go for the culture.”