October 10, 2008 by Jenna Candelaria NMSU Round Up
Native Americans gathered in a festive and spiritual expression of dance and song at NMSU Saturday and Sunday, as they partook in the third annual Rio Grande Pow Wow.
The Pow Wow is a social gathering of various local and national Native American tribes.
Gov. Henry Torres of the Piro-Manso-Tiwa Tribe of Las Cruces said dancing is a way to continue the tribes’ tradition despite current social and economic problems.
“We’re struggling to be federally recognized,” Torres said. “But no matter what, we keep on dancing.”
Torres’s niece, Belia Bustillos, came from San Diego, Calif., to participate in the ceremony. Bustillos is a dancer for the Piro-Manso-Tiwa Tribe.
“It brings the community out to meet our culture and be a part of our dances, to see what we do,” Bustillos said. “It brings other tribes from around the nation.”
The Rio Grande Pow Wow featured Norman Bahe, a Navajo scholar and medicine man. Bahe spoke about Navajo customs in a lecture titled “Then and Now,” focusing on the involvement of Native Americans in American history and the continuation of traditions and culture.
“I’ll be going back through history about not only Navajo traditions but Native American culture in general,” Bahe said. “Despite everything, we’re still going strong in the right direction.”
Bahe also expressed his hope that the event would encourage the younger generations as well as push them to get a higher education.
“We’re looking forward to having Indian leaders who will listen to the needs of others,” Bahe said. “We’ll be okay. We know how to survive.”
The Pow Wow began in 2006, thanks to organizational efforts from former NMSU President Michael Martin, who invited the Indigenous Nations for Community Action (INCA) organizers to campus. INCA was formed by Matt Runsabove, of the Lakota tribe, and John Yazzie, Navajo tribe member.
“It’s been a very positive thing for the university, INCA itself and the city of Las Cruces,” Yazzie said. “What it has done is it has brought people from up North, from different reservations, the Pueblos, Navajo reservation, Mescaleros and the San Carlos Apaches.”
Yazzie said pow wows were not a part of his tribal culture but after becoming involved as a part of INCA, he has made a lot of new friends and learned a lot.
“It seems the more I do, the bigger my family gets,” Yazzie added.
Xochitl Torres, 23, said she learned a lot from the dancing.
“I think the Friendship Dance is a good example [of Native American tradition],” Xochitl Torres said. “The inner circle [made of tribe members] preserves the history and culture and the outer circle [made of any who wish to join] can watch and experience.”
For photos of the 2008 Rio Grande Pow Wow visit www.roundupnews.com.