The Mankillers and a floating pow wow

This year's Gathering of the Tribes includes a pow wow cruise and groups from all over the country

Posted: Wednesday, July 03, 2002

A floating pow wow aboard the Carnival Spirit is expected to add about 200 Native Americans to the Gathering of the Tribes Pow Wow this weekend.

"This is going to be a major deal for us," said Juneau pow wow organizer Garfield Katasse. "There will be Native Americans from all over North America."

Katasse has organized annual pow wows in Juneau for the past five years. This summer, he scheduled the Gathering of the Tribes to coincide with the arrival of Dream Cruises' "Pow Wow Cruise."

Dream Cruises, based in Yucca Valley, Calif., puts together annual cruises catering to Native Americans and featuring Native entertainers and activities.

The Gathering of the Tribes Pow Wow starts about noon Friday, July 5, at Centennial Hall and continues through Sunday. The Carnival Spirit arrives about 9 a.m. Saturday, July 6, and will be in Juneau until 11 p.m. that day. Several hundred of the nearly 3,000 passengers aboard the cruise ship are Pow Wow Cruise participants.

Saturday's events kick off about 10 a.m. with canoe races at Twin Lakes. Festivities move to Centennial Hall about noon, with drumming, dancing and singing. There will be arts and crafts booths at Centennial Hall. About 2 p.m. Saturday, Native musicians Joanne Shenandoah, Mary Youngblood and Robert "Tree" Cody will perform a concert at Centennial Hall.

Other guests include the all-women drum group The Mankillers, based in Northern California, the Mount Juneau Tlingit Dancers, the Children of All Nations dance group and a group from Kake.

Dance performances are a major part of The Gathering of the Tribes, but unlike many pow wows in the Lower 48 that feature competitive dancing, the Juneau event is more about sharing culture than competition.

"People in Alaska don't compete for prize money at all, and they shy away from it," Katasse said. "Down south they do, and they have big pots."

The Mankillers have performed around the country at pow wows, music festivals and conferences. The group has released three CDs, including last year's "The Mankillers: Killing You Softly."

Irma Amaro-Davis of The Mankillers said five of the 12 members live in Shasta Lake City in northern California, three live within a few hours' drive and the rest are scattered throughout California and Nevada. Each member of the group contributes songs.

"When we get together the five of us sing and learn songs," she said. "Sometimes the others can come in and practice, and we'll record songs to send to the others."

In performance, the musicians sit around a drum about 2 feet in diameter and sing and play. Their music includes songs for grass, jingle, fancy and traditional dancing, children's songs, honor songs, man songs and women songs.

The Mankillers was started in 1991 at a gathering in Northern California by women who were singing with the Humboldt State University Indian Student Drum group and the Red Cedar drum group of Arcata, Calif. The Mankillers represent many tribes including Yaqui, Apache, Paiute, Shoshone, Taos Pueblo, Muskogee Creek, Seminole, Cherokee, Choctaw and Yankton Sioux.

Among some Native American tribes, only men drum and sing, while in others there are no gender restrictions. The name "mankiller" is a traditional Cherokee warrior name given upon successful completion of battle. According to the group, the members view themselves as women warriors, working to create healthy communities and relationships.

The Mankillers will perform throughout the three-day event. Tickets to the pow wow are $20 Saturday, which includes admission to the concert, and $10 Friday and Sunday.

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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