Tuesday, January 22, 2008






Silver City is a university town about fifty miles north of Deming and hosts a number of cultural events throughout the year. This weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) it was the site of the Red Paint Pow Wow, a gathering of the Chihene Apache Red Paint people, some of whom traveled a great distance to participate.

Doris and I traveled together to Silver City, spying several hawks in the sky on the way. After stopping to ask directions, we soon found ourselves a parking spot on a side street near Western University. The event fortunately was held indoors in the university’s gymnasium. To stand outside in the cold all day would have been a lesson in endurance, but it actually became too hot in the gym after awhile.
Chainsaw Art

There were many booths selling jewelry, homemade jams, pottery, art, t-shirts and CD’s and one could easily spend a good deal of money. I have never seen so much turquoise jewelry in one
place before! It was so tempting to buy many things, and I’m glad that I had only a certain amount on me, but I still bought three pairs of earrings, a necklace, a jar of jam and a CD of classical guitar music done by the Master of Ceremonies for the Pow Wow, Gabriel Ayala. He is a Yaqui from Tucson, Arizona who performs worldwide. Classical guitar is by far my favourite music, and I was pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Gabe briefly. I have his business card and his website lists where he is performing. Hopefully I can catch a performance on my travels.

One booth sold t-shirts with catchy slogans. The one that caught my eye said “Homeland Security—Fighting Terrorism since 1492”.

In the centre of the gymnasium was the area for dancing, surrounded by chairs for spectators. The program specifically requested that no photographs be taken, but around 1:00 p.m. the MC
announced that there would be a grand entrance, and that photos
would be permitted, so I snapped away madly, to capture some of the spectacular costumes worn by men, women and children, and I am attaching some of them here so that you can appreciate the work that goes into these costumes. The beadwork is exquisite and intricate.
Porcupine quills and undercoats were popular for headdresses, as well as bird feathers, some of which appeared to be eagle feathers (I thought these were endangered). I was greatly surprised to see that some of the costumes included strips of plastic – I guess that’s an acceptance of the 21st century materials available.

Throughout the day there were performances, some of them competitions, starting with the tots. All competitors wore a number and prizes were awarded in each category. There were also some sacred dances performed and no photos were allowed. The MC announced what the restrictions were. One dance featured three men and one boy with black masks and wearing a
headdress made up of three pointed sticks. They carried similar sticks in each hand using them to describe the motions. Their bodies were painted in black in an interesting design. I wish I knew what the significance of the dance, but there was no description given.

At times, spectators were invited to join in the dancing, and I saw several white men and women participate, along with the native people.

It was a wonderful day, but something that I found a bit disturbing was that the men took centre stage when dancing, while the women had to remain on the periphery while they danced.

One of many drums used in the drumming ceremonies

We were there for about four hours in total. I would like to have stayed longer, but I had a migraine, and the drumming was making my head feel like someone was beating on it! Doris relieved the pain somewhat by massaging my neck and shoulders, but I needed to get back to the campground and jump into a hot shower to let the water beat down on my muscles. I have been waking up with severe headaches for a few mornings now, and decided to switch my mattress and pillows around in an effort to alleviate the problem of my arthritic neck and shoulders. Since doing that, I have had no more pain, so hopefully I have solved the problem.


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