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Thunder & Lightning Pow Wow Under Way Outside Morongo Casino Resort

Native American artisans and food vendors were set up Friday afternoon, and Morongo Bird Singers and Dancers opened the three-day pow wow at 4 p.m.

Artisans, dancers, drummers and food vendors from across the West were gearing up Friday afternoon for the 21st Annual Morongo Thunder and Lightning Pow Wow outside Morongo Casino Resort & Spa.

Heather Tracy, 24, said she and her mom came from the Navajo Reservation to sell jewelry, silver, pottery and custom-designed wire bracelets.

"We're from Cameron, Arizona, which is between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon," Tracy said just before Morongo Bird Singers opened the three-day event. "We usually sell our jewelry between Sedona and the Grand Canyon area, that's where we're from. But we travel here a couple of times a year to sell our jewelry in Southern California.

"We make all-natural stone jewelry, we do hand-beading, my uncle does silversmithing, and my aunt does pottery," Tracy said. "She's really well-known in Flagstaff. We all do a little bit of everything. I also do wire bracelets that are getting well-known too."

Thousands of people are expected at the pow wow this weekend, according to the host Morongo Band of Mission Indians.

"This is my third year here," Tracy said. "I like how many dancers there are. It's one of the biggest powwows that we go to, and it's beautiful scenery, in the middle of the mountains.

"It's beautiful out here," Tracy said. "I love it. And the tribe here, the Morongo, they're very nice. I love the tribe here. They're great."

Walter Holmes, 60, and his fiancee, Candi McDonald, of the Morongo Reservation, were outside the main tent preparing for the bird singers' opening of the pow wow.

"I'm the head bird singer at Morongo," Holmes said. "From generation to generation, I'm one of the old ones. The elders that sang before me taught me how to sing these songs.

"I'm very excited," Holmes said. "I sing all over at a lot of the pow wows, and bird singers come here from all over. This is special because we open it up, the pow wow for the weekend."

The three-day pow wow is a celebration of Native American dance, music and culture, with participants and tribal representatives from across the United States and Canada.

Hundreds of competitive dancers and drummers are planning to attend and compete for prize money, according to the Morongo tribe.

Each day will feature Color Guard Grand Entry parades, followed by flag ceremonies, then dance and drum contests, according to an event schedule.

Admission to the Morongo Thunder and Lightning Pow Wow is free.

"There are no 'spectators' at a Pow Wow," Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin and tribal council members said in a welcome statement. "All who attend are regarded as participants. Each of us has a place in the circle of people. Within this circle there is no beginning and no end. This coming together is at the heart of the traditional Pow Wow."

Grand Entries are scheduled at 8 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday.

The Morongo Indian Market will feature food Native vendors selling Indian tacos, tamales, Indian frybread, and lamb stew. More than 60 artisans will be selling authentic Native arts and crafts, including one-of-a-kind jewelry, beadwork, pottery, clothing and basketry items.

Scheduled event hours are 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, visit 2011powwow.

To view images from last year's pow wow, or to follow a live webcast of the 21st Annual Moronogo Thunder and Lightning Pow Wow, visit www.powwows.com.

Morongo Casino Resort & Spa is at 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon.

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