TOLEDO — Moccasin-clad feet stepped to the beat of pounding drums as an American Indian song echoed through the Toledo High School gymnasium Saturday.
War-painted men wearing feather headdresses and women adorned in bright, beaded jewelry sang and danced in traditional Native American dress during the 14th annual Pow Wow grand entry ceremony.
The Cowlitz Indian Tribe honored their heritage with the full-day of Pow Wow festivities.
“Our ancestors are here today to welcome you,” Tribal Chair William Iyall told the crowd in the packed gymnasium. “I’m proud to see the growth of this pow wow. It’s phenomenal.”
As mandated by tradition, veterans of military service, native and non-native alike, received recognition and handmade gifts following the grand entry.
“It’s a time of celebration,” said Roy Wilson, the Cowlitz spiritual leader, who gave a blessing in the Native tongue. “It’s not only a collective thing but an individual thing we’re all celebrating.”
Kevin King and his wife, Jeanifer, of Rochester, served as head man and woman dancers at this year’s event.
“You gotta be good looking,” King joked.
King said the Cowlitz hope to continue growing the Pow Wow, which has decreased in size over the years.
This year, Wilson said, the tribe was expecting 2,000 to 3,000 people to attend various activities throughout the day.
“Pow Wows were done to bring people together,” said Hoot Mestetn, who came from Hermiston, Ore., to see family and friends.
Mestetn wore a homemade, traditional Native American outfit, which included a headdress and suede covering only certain parts around his waist, with a pair of hand-beaded, cobalt blue moccasins.
The event included many others, also dressed in full regalia, participating in dancing competitions, drumming contests and other activities held throughout the day.
The 2013 Cowlitz Canoe Junior Princess Cynthia Reck, of Battle Ground, said she competed for her title honor by catching and seasoning salmon.
“We have to be examples for the little ones,” the 8-year-old said.
Wilson, who carried the tribe’s talking stick, a staff adorned with deer antlers, rabbit fur and a crystal, to symbolize his role as a spiritual leadership, said the dancing brings about powerful emotion for him during the Pow Wow.
“For me it’s watching the little 4-year-old in full regalia dancing,” the 86-year-old tribal elder said. “It brings tears down my cheek.”
Amy Nile: (360) 807-8235