First the jingling of bells, then the sound of drums and finally an explosion of colors.
That was the experience of entering the event center at Little Creek Casino & Resort on Sunday as hundreds of American — and Canadian and Mexican — Indian tribal members celebrated during the second day of the Sa’Heh’Wa’Mish Days Pow-Wow organized by Little Creek and the Squaxin Island Tribe.
The weekend celebration, which focused on tribal youths, began Friday with a coastal gathering of tribes. It then began in earnest Saturday, said Sonny Eaglespeaker, one of the coordinators for the event.
About 50 tribes participated. Eaglespeaker estimated attendance at more than 2,000.
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A drumming contest was Saturday — top prize was $8,000, according to program information. On Sunday, tribal members dressed in full tribal regalia marched into the event center to participate in a “grand entry.”
Backed by pounding drums, they danced counterclockwise at both a slow tempo and up-tempo pace. The regalia was immaculate, bursting with color and intricate designs, and many wore elaborate feather headdresses.
Some, too, had bells strapped around their ankles, creating a distinctive ringing sound throughout the center.
As the tribes marched in for the grand entry, J’Shon Reed, 28, a Yakama Nation member, looked on as her daughter, Athena, got set to perform. Reed, who called Sunday’s gathering a celebration of culture and life, has attended the past five years, she said.
Although youths were the focus of this year’s powwow, tribal elders also were well-represented.
Charles Tailfeathers, 75, a member of the Cree and Blackfeet tribes, said he has taken part in the annual celebration since the 1990s.
It goes back about 20 years, Eaglespeaker said, but the powwow has spent the past nine years at Little Creek.
“It gets bigger and better every year,” said Tailfeathers, who pointed out the beads on his chest, which were designed in such a way to reflect his last name.
Tribes came from around the U.S., including Oklahoma, Minnesota, Wisconsin and California, Tailfeathers said. Northwest tribes, and those from North Dakota, Montana and Idaho, were represented, Eaglespeaker said.
In anticipation of the weekend event, the hotel at Little Creek has been booked for some time, he said.