Celebrating restoration

Above: Joy Cordova (center), smiles and waves at the crowd as she dances in rhythmic motion to honor her ancestors, never missing a beat. Below: Rollie Rilatos of the Siletz Tribe stops on his way to the next dance to show his feathered regalia. (Photos courtesy of Krista Malone)

Annual pow-wow celebrates 42 years of recognition

The Annual Siletz Restoration Pow-Wow took place on the night of Saturday, Nov. 16, at Chinook Winds Casino Resort. The pow-wow kicked off with a literally ground-shaking grand entry. Newcomers all around looked at one another in awe, with some even touching the ground to feel if the ground was really pulsating. The convention center, built to withstand an earthquake, vibrated in synchronization with the dancers’ feet to absorb the pressure, creating a physical manifestation of the high energy created by the tribes’ dancing.

After the grand entry led by the head of the procession carrying the Indian flag that represents all the Indian nations, the crowd and tribes honored the veterans who have fought for the United States. They carried the American flag, the Oregon state flag and the Tribal flag. The veterans — also referred to as warriors — were all volunteers of the war, and stood for the flag song which was sung to protect the land.

Agnes Baker Pilgrim, of the Siletz Tribe, travels worldwide to fight for water rights and the protection of Mother Earth. She led the crowd in prayer, saying, “Let us lift our hearts up to our loving creator,” and informed attendees that this was the biggest crowd she had seen in several years. After honoring the veterans and coming together for prayer and thanks, the crowd watched as the dancing continued in high spirits, with a passionate drum circle and lively songs embellished by the bells on some of the dancers’ regalia.

Joy Cordova, a member of the Yaqui Tribe, told the News-Times that the reason she dances is for her family members and ancestors. Cordova said that, by dancing, they are sending prayers out.

When asked how long it took the Siletz Tribes to prepare for this Pow-Wow, Delores Pigsley, tribal chairman, simply stated, “Our whole lives.” From the regalia to the dances to the adornment of earrings and necklaces, many of these symbols of culture are a symbol of history, passed down for several generations. But Pigsley included that the Siletz Tribe teaches the children of their tribes how to make their own regalia at culture camps they hold, passing down their culture to the next generations.

The vendors, lined with traditional turquoise jewelry, shell bracelets, beaded barrettes and, of course, traditional fry bread attracted lines of people going up and down the aisles of the convention center gazing at the vendors’ authentic materials.

This was the 42nd year that the Siletz Tribe celebrated the signing of Public Law 95-195. The law, signed in November of 1977, was put in place to restore the relationships between the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and the federal government. After a long history of intense lobbying, Congress and President Jimmy Carter approved Public Law 95-195, reinstating the recognition of the Siletz as a federal Indian Tribe. The Siletz Tribe was the first in Oregon — and the second in the nation — to attain restoration.

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