The Gathering of the Tribes

This weekend's powwow will bring together tribes and drumming groups from the West and Canada

Posted: Thursday, July 05, 2001

Juneau residents can hear the beat of a different drum this weekend.

Native dancers and drummers from Alaska will perform with groups from Canada and the Lower 48 in The Gathering of the Tribes - Pow Wow 2001.

"The music is different, the beat of the drum is different, the way they dress up in the regalia is different," said Garfield Katasse, chairman of the Pow Wow committee. "I think seeing different tribes and different groups (is) what (the audience) really looks for."

The event begins Friday with a two- to three-hour performance at noon at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center. A picnic at Sandy Beach and a concert at the National Guard Armory will follow. The powwow proper kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday at the armory, and events continue until 11 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

"I hope we pack the house," Katasse said.

Each year, the event grows more elaborate. What began five years ago with only one drum group - often simply referred to as "drums" - has blossomed into a larger celebration that hosts six or seven groups from around the nation. In addition, a powwow in the third week of November will tour Kake, Angoon and Juneau.

"We're going to take it on the road," Katasse said. "It's already set. Now we just have to do the fund-raising."

The host drum at this weekend's event is High Wind from Fort Washhakie, Wyo. Other invited drums are Painted Horse and Young Blood from Alberta, Canada; Iron Hand from Portland, Ore.; YoungHearts Singers from Wolf Point, Mont.; Lone Creek from Regina, Saskatchewan; All Nations from Juneau, and Keex Kwaan the Young Spirits, a men's drum group from Kake.

Juneau performers include the Yan Shuu Ka Dancers and Tuuwuuee L'seenshaa, a women's drum group.

"You get on 125 Web sites and we get a good response," said Katasse of the search for performers. "We're set for the next few years. People want to come up. ... Next year we're going to have 20 of them."

Dances honoring veterans will take place Saturday. Blanket dances, which help raise funds for those in need, will be performed for a family with medical expenses on Saturday and the AWARE women's and children's shelter on Sunday. Exhibition dances in several different styles will be performed by men and women.

"We have some categories for even the tiny tots," Katasse said. "From the time it takes off to the end it's really fantastic. There's something to do every hour and you never see the same thing. It's just nonstop."

The powwow events are open to the public, though generally for a small fee. While the Sandy Beach picnic at 5 p.m. Friday is free to all who bring a hot or cold dish, the concert at 9 that night at the armory features country and western music from Don Harris of Canada and carries a $5 cover charge.

"They're going to play good country and western music and they're going to do Native American music in with the country music," Katasse said.

The charge for powwow events on Saturday and Sunday is $10, payable at the door. Volunteers are admitted to events free.

"There's some people who can't pay $10 to get in," Katasse said. "We're not going to work them to death."

The Head Man Dancer is Ron Maccasin, from the Assinibone Tribe of Fort Peck, Mont. The Head Lady Dancer is Tyra Wadsworth, of Blood Tsuutina/Blood Reserve from Southern Alberta. Cy Peck Jr. will offer the opening blessing, and Frank Alby, a member of the Pow Wow Committee, will serve as master of ceremonies.

"Everybody is welcome to come," Katasse said. "It doesn't matter who or where they're from. We invite everybody to come and be part of what we do."

Call 586-8187 for more information or to volunteer.

Genevieve Gagne-Hawes can be reached at

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