One of the biggest cultural events in the area is back. The Taos Pueblo Powwow is officially a “go,” according to one of the event organizers Debbie Lujan. She said the dates to mark on your calendar are July 12-14.
Last year, faced with the loss of some regular volunteers, the need for funding and new time constraints, Richard Archuleta, one of the event founders, and Lujan reluctantly decided to cancel the powwow for 2018.
At the time, Archuteta, who also had just taken a full time job managing the Taos Pueblo senior center, said he was a bit overwhelmed, but added "We plan to come back full force in 2019."
For more than 30 years, the powwow has been a gathering of Native American nations for three days of dancing, singing and drumming on the second weekend in July. Yet, during this time, the powwow organization has not been understood by many. It is run by a small army of volunteers who put together all the details needed to run an event that not only includes a full schedule of dancing categories but also arts and crafts and food vendors; temporary infrastructure including electricity, water, and sanitary facilities; free camping; ticketing; and promotion.
Archuleta was one of the founders of the pow-wow in the mid-1980s. He's organized it every year with the help of an all volunteer staff. Lujan joined a few years ago and has been handling many of the details from marketing to coordinating vendors and helping with fundraising. Financial support over the years has come from the Taos Pueblo government, Taos Mountain Casino, lodgers tax, local Taos businesses and other donations, according to a story in last year’s The Taos News.
No one makes a profit and all the funds raised from the event go into producing the next, according to Archuleta and Lujan.
Finding volunteers willing to put in the long hours required to organize the event, build the shade arbor and dance arena, keep the pow-wow grounds clean during the three day powwow, and help the hundreds of vendors, dancers, singers and spectators who show up every year, is no easy task. That’s why the powwow is putting out an extra push this year to attract locals to help bring this event back to life.
In the last couple of decades, the powwow circuit has become extremely competitive, with professional singers and dancers making their livelihoods from the events, Archuleta told The Taos News last year.
Taos Pueblo Powwow, for example, has offered $40,000 in total prizes including $3,000 for first place singers. But at least one other powwow held across the country by another tribe offers a $20,000 first place prize for singers, Archuleta said.
"Old, traditional non-prize money powwows are fading away," he said, talking about a time when the events were important all-day and night gatherings for native peoples to socialize, share stories and demonstrate their dance skills. The events were less about winning prizes than simply being with old friends and making new ones.
That's changed. While socializing is still the heart of powwows, the climate of contemporary ones now is driven by big prizes.
The event is still in its planning stages, so watch for updates in Tempo and social media.
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