The weekend arrives and Albuquerque switches to its playful mode. Various sporting and musical events take place on the premises of the local university.
Aware of the inevitable student irreverence, a battalion of superb New Mexico police patrols the vast academic facilities with a mission to avoid overly chaotic parking lots and behavior.
One of them, extroverted as well as haughty, notices our car's license plate and the disorganized air inside and can't resist commenting: “California??
You've really come from far away. Are they coming because of the concert or the Indians ?? By that time, we had no idea of one thing or the other. Comparing the eccentricity of the hypotheses, we choose to question the authority over the latter.
The Amazing Discovery of Albuquerque Pow Wow
The agent tells us that The Pit – the large sports arena that is home to the local basketball team, the Lobos – is about to host a Gathering of the nations. Faster than we expected, we confirmed the information.
We left the old but elegant Buick Le Saber arranged within the legality between the institution's pavilions. We cross a busy avenue and come across another crowded parking lot.
We noticed that, there, instead of euphoric teenagers, they get out of their cars and cross the road Indians confused, dressed, painted and adorned with feathers, feathers, jewelry and other ethnic ornaments that sometimes formed similar looks, in other cases, completely different.
We approached the caravans that make up box office and discovered the posters that, even if no longer needed, proved that one of the biggest was held there. pow wows (indigenous meetings) from North America.
Elements from over 500 tribes had come from the four corners of the US and Canada to celebrate their mother cultures and renew spiritual beliefs.
They were divided into different age groups, from the elderly to children, with the purpose of participating in 32 dance competitions, others in singing, in drum competitions and even in the Miss Indian World competition.
We entered the pavilion.
Hundreds of these participants and many more supporters walk up and down the upper aisle entertained to socialize, buy food and drink or peek at the numerous small business stalls.
The Gathering of the Nations Ceremonial Gathering
We found a stairwell opening and finally managed to peek into the arena. The benches are full of people and color.
Below, an exuberant army of Indians dances around the ring, in sync with the hypnotic soundtrack produced by groups of drummers and singers from a falsetto deep tribal.
The various drums distributed around the enclosure are huge and echo the heartbeat of the Earth. We are punished by groups of powerful men, some of which are also exaggerated in size.
We had already noticed the type of food fast food served by most of the stalls and bars abroad and on the top floor, in everything consistent with what undermines the health of the American nation.
Shown before us were some of the most unlikely victims of the Yankee obsession with easy and immediate profit. In the audience itself, who admired his musical gifts, there were numerous large natives.
Once upon a time, their tribes survived on what they gathered from Nature and hunted.
The Generalized Destruction of Native American Civilizations
Centuries after the conquest of West, after repeated persecutions, slaughters and confinement on reservations, the Indians were reduced from many millions to just 500.000, a tiny population if we take into account the total population of the United States and Canada, almost 350 million.
We are now also victimized by sugary drinks and king size burgers, dogs, clubs, burritos, nachos and french fries soaked in oils and sauces, one of several cultural aggressions that they suffer in an already long process of conformation.
Driven by the shrewdness of its brands, the capitalist civilization developed by the European settlers of North America conquered the world with relative ease.
Coming from an intimate relationship with the land, the natives could never resist. That weekend, the headdresses, typical costumes and exuberant rituals of each tribe have temporary prominence.
After the participations, most of the natives give in to jeans, sneakers and compliments of fashion, to the t-shirts and baseball and baseball caps, to the made expressions and packaged notions of the nation that has shattered the identities of its tribes.
The Gathering of the Nations Resistance Demonstration
The Gathering of The Nations we watched, like others across North America, were still impressive manifestations of resistance and survival.
During the Eagle Staff's sacred Great Entrance – the banner that symbolizes the unity of all Native Americans – representatives from each tribe line up to hear the Eagle Staff Song and the gathering's MC (Master of Ceremonies) speech.
They also share a prayer to the Creator of the World, a communal prayer for happiness and for the cure of the ills caused by man on Mother Earth.
We had already descended on the playing field when the inter-tribal dance competitions continued, all with simplistic names inspired by Nature or by everyday life: Dance of the Beautiful Shawl, Dance of Smoke, Dance of the Blanket or Dance of the Owl.
The singing followed, interspersed with more majestic displays by the drummers and curious juvenile tastings. At the level at which the action was taking place, participants circled the field over and over again.
Some passed very close to us, given to the rhythm, their heads swaying low, repeating movements of pure trance.
An Unusual Sponsored and Awarded Spirituality
Certain exhibits radiated deep spirituality. When we least expected it, the song ended and the MC announced the sponsoring brand of the upcoming competition, or the value of his prize in dollars.
All mysticism was gone. It wasn't the next test that brought him back.
The presenter gives the signal and the dancers hurry to leave the field. Little by little, women from different tribes and regions of North America, from the Tiwa from the Puebla civilization around Taos, the tribes of Florida those of the northernmost part of Canada.
Place for the Miss Indian World Election
They start by lining up in front of the main bench, but once the presentation is over, they are free for another dance that a panel of juries evaluates with strict criteria.
The results of the dance are added to the Public Discourse, Personal Interview, Traditional Presentation and Rehearsal. The final score determines the election of Miss Indian World.
As a rule, last year's winner appears to the public to summarize in a few words the honor of the title.
We see Canadian Dakota Brook Brant, from the clan Mohawk Turtle does it with a somewhat automated confidence and pride that lives up to the title: “I was glad I was chosen to serve as an ambassador. It was a pleasure to help build healthy relationships among our relatives throughout the Indian territory.”
Marjorie Tahbone, an Alaskan Inupiaq/Kiowa, short, round and, in a way, gawky is anything but the prototype of a conventional Miss World or Universe.
Despite the surprise that arouses us, he collects the new crown, awarded according to values that have little to do with those we are used to in these events. As a reward, he spent the year traveling the world promoting the culture of Native American tribes.
Fawn Wood: The Chosen Voice of the Gathering of the Nations
Enter Fawn Wood. In the center of the arena and the attention, this singer, famous among the indigenous people, sings a theme that those present seem to know. It makes them vibrate, alternating with its high-pitched and powerful voice, much appreciated guttural sounds and English lyrics that speak of jealousy, love and loved ones but already broken.
In between the songs, the MC intervenes again: “don't forget that we have Fawn's CDs for sale. Here in Dallas, keep asking me to repeat the warning!"
Fawn moves on to another theme. Halfway through, two spectators approach her and leave money at her feet. Before long, hundreds of others do the same, and the dollar smear that will complete your paycheck expands.
The final day of the Gathering of The Nations draws to a close but The Pit's outdoor bunkers don't disarm. To the Americanized way of doing things, while the meeting drags on The Profit Must Go On.
We left the room wondering how much longer Native Americans will be able to avoid the total bankruptcy of their cultures.