The Gathering of Nations

The Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, held in Albuquerque, New Mexico every April, is the largest event of its kind anywhere. Drawing representatives of more than five hundred tribal nations throughout the continental United States and Canada to share their food, dress, languages, crafts and dance in a series of demonstrations and competitions, the Pow Wow spans three days from early morning to midnight.

It is a largely congenial affair open to everyone. Nonetheless, the air of brotherhood and the reminder the four colors of man—red, white, yellow and black—are present in every costume are punctuated with frequent reminders of their victories in the courts and declarations that these people are “the true landlords” of all this land.

Legends from their past fill each day’s narrative. The Iroquois’ story of creation tells us how, at the time of the Great Flood, when Sky Woman fell through a hole in the sky, a flock of geese carried her down to Water World, the plain we all live, and set her to rest on the back of Turtle until they could decide what to do with her. The animals attempted to retrieve some of the soil she required to survive from beneath the waters covering the Earth. After several failed attempts by Beaver and Seal, Muskrat managed to dive deep enough to bring back a sample. Because Sky Woman had the ability to create anything when she possessed even a small amount of raw material, she spread and increase the soil over turtle’s shell, which she continued to enlarge, until she created the world we now live on—Turtle Island—which continues to float on Water World—the surrounding ocean.

Amid these engaging myths, however, they remind their audience of such events as the Trail of Tears—the forced relocation of all eastern tribes to the land west of the Mississippi. One telling recounts the struggle of the Seminoles, who after fifty years fighting the white man, retained their right to continue to live in Florida.

These are an undaunted people, victorious after centuries of hardship and oppression. They speak with pride of life on “the Rez” and are not the least bit politically correct. While we, perhaps to assuage our guilt, refer to them as Native Americans, these native peoples proudly call themselves Indians. Look at their faces. You will see only pride. Not one shred of defeat.


9 responses to “The Gathering of Nations

  1. Excellent. I was supposed to go on Saturday but too many things came up. Looks like it was a wonderful event and I look forward to attending next year.

    • raymondbolton

      If you manage it next year, you should be forewarned: bring earplugs. The speakers on the drumming and chats are turned up to twelve.

  2. Thanks SO much for the pix, looks amazing,

    • raymondbolton

      If you ever come to this part of the world—where, BTW, all my fellow bloggers have a guest room with mountain views awaiting in my home—come in late April to see this event. Of course, May, June, July, August and September are nice, too. Then, of course, there’s alway October, November, December, etc. 🙂

  3. One of my heroes is Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe of Washington and Idaho. I wrote a tribute poem to him entitled “A Time To Die.” Our Indian brothers and sisters are part and fabric of our history.

    Thanks for the reminder

    • raymondbolton

      This is a culture we can only skip at best, Wally. By and large admirable people we can learn much from.

  4. Great pictures, Raymond. I think we should be reminded of these things.

    • raymondbolton

      I live in an amazing area. New Mexico has nineteen pueblos and three reservations. I hope to visit a few this summer, although except for one or two, that requires an invitation or permission. I’m working on it and hope to provide some photos over the coming months.

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