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My Lithuanian grandfather was obsessed with nature. Spending every free moment hiking, bird watching, and living by the “Leave No Trace” principle before it was even a formalized concept. When he moved to America, he discovered the Native Tribes and immediately felt a kinship towards them. They were stewards of the land. Their beliefs reminded him of the Lithuanian stories such as the one about the iron wolf. And so, when I was a young kid, my entire family went to a Powwow. I remember vividly the bright colored outfits, the dances, and most of all the stories. It changed the way I see the world. Here in the Eastern Sierra, you can experience a Powwow yourself as part of the annual Bishop Pabanamanina Powwow. 

What Is A Pow Wow? 

A pow wow is a gathering, a place where Indigenous Peoples from all tribal backgrounds come to celebrate their cultures and time-honored traditionsIn the oldest days and the earliest ways these gatherings were held, for example, to cure disease or ensure success in a battle or huntThis was also a time for tribes to form intertribal alliancesThese alliances allowed tribe-specific songs, dances, and ceremonies to be exchanged, thus laying the foundation for today’s modern, intertribal powwow” with the sharing of songs, dances, food, and gift-giving.   

What To Expect 

The Pabanamanina Pow wow is held at the end of September each year at the Owens Valley Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center. For over three decades, the Bishop Paiute Tribe hosts an inter-tribal gathering to celebrate different tribal cultures with dance and spiritual events. Throughout the weekend, you’ll find hundreds of Indigenous dancers, drummers, and others from around the nation will descend upon Bishop to show off their regalia and their traditional regional dances. Highlights include a free barbecue Saturday of a steer cut from the Tribal herd as well as Hand games which is one of the oldest Owens Valley Paiute and Shoshone Indian traditions that can be traced back to some Creation stories.

Be Open Minded And Respectful 

The Pabanamanina Pow Wow is held at the pow wow grounds across from Wanaaha Casino.  This event, hosted by the Bishop Paiute Tribe and its many volunteers, is held every California Indian Days weekend, starting with a parade at 10am on California Indian Day.  Throughout the weekend, you’ll find hundreds of dancers, singers, friends, and family from all over the U.S. and abroad as they come together to share their culture and traditions.  Dancers will wear their traditional regalia and dance their traditional dance-styles.  Singers will sing behind the drum, the heartbeat behind the powwow for all to feel and hear.  You will see beautiful regalia made by the dancer or their families, with some passed on from generation to generation.  You will see the intricate beadwork with designs all done by hand that often reflect tribal affiliations combined with personal style.  You’ll also have the opportunity to visit numerous Native craft vendors who will be displaying their hand-made work or take the time to enjoy various food selections such as the popular Indian Taco. 

To sum it up, similar to being in the mountains, if you bring your best mountain manners, you’ll have a blast!  

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