Powwow planning

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Plans taking shape for second annual Smoking River Pow Wow Sept. 25-26

MEEKER — Organizers of the Smoking River Pow Wow met last week to, uh, powwow about this year’s event, scheduled for the last weekend in September.
“We’ve been meeting monthly since November, trying to make sure we have everything ready,” said Bill Kight, one of the organizers of the event and an archaeologist for the White River National Forest. “We’ve been in close contact with them (members of the Ute tribe). We’ve made one trip over to the reservation (in Fort Duchesne, Utah). We’ll be making more as we get closer (to the event).”
Lynn Lockwood of the U.S. Forest Service, who was involved with last year’s event and is on the powwow committee, said plans are moving forward.
“I am very pleased with our progress,” Lockwood said. “Bill has a great relationship with the Ute people. He also has had a good deal of experience coordinating events, and we welcome his leadership.”
This year’s event was moved from July to Sept. 25 and 26. Last year was the first-ever Smoking River Pow Wow. Kight thinks the schedule change will only enhance the event.
“We won’t have to worry as much as we did with thunderstorms, by going a little later,” Kight said. “Plus, it fits in with the schedule for the folks who have the grounds, and with the sheepdog trials (held around the first of September at the same location). We’re working closely with them. We appreciate their help.”
The powwow committee has some new faces.
“We have many wonderful new members, including students Cameron Glasscock and Kara Hollenbeck,” Lockwood said. “They are looking for ways to involve youth.”
Other than the date change, the schedule for this year’s powwow will remain much the same as last year’s.
“We don’t have plans for any major changes,” Kight said. “We’re hoping for more vendors, and more participants, and we’re hoping to double the attendance. We’re looking to have another really good event this year.’
An estimated 600 people attended last year’s inaugural powwow and 75 Ute dancers participated in the event.
Kight said the organizers want to build on last year’s powwow, which by all accounts, was a success.
“It was what we were hoping for,” Kight said of last year’s powwow. “From the Utes who participated, from the veterans who participated, what we got back was it was a success.”
Kight said the event was received well by the community.
“The community response was really what we were looking for,” Kight said. “There were no major problems. The feedback I got, the community was glad this happened. (And the powwow) supports the community economically. That’s what we want to see as well. And I think it was a family atmosphere that’s going to be conducive to making this a successful event every year.”
Organizers are hoping the powwow will become an annual event.
“That’s what we’re hoping for … so people will know it’s coming every year, just like the sheepdog trials.”
The powwow was also an important first step in establishing a good relationship with members of the Ute tribe, Kight said, which for generations had harbored resentment for having been kicked out of the White River Valley in the late 1800s and transplanted to Utah.
“I think we broke ground there,” Kight said of fence mending that took place with last year’s powwow. “We’ve got no place to go but forward into the future, in better relationships.”
With that goal in mind, the powwow committee adopted a mission statement at last Friday’s meeting. It reads: Honoring heritage. Connecting communities. Celebrating friendships.
“I think we came up with a good mission statement,” Kight said. “Honoring the Utes’ heritage is something important that this powwow does. That hadn’t happened before. And the fact that it’s coming from Meeker is very important.”
For many of the Utes who attended and participated in last year’s powwow, it was their first visit to Meeker. But the stories that had been passed down for generations had made them feel uneasy about the place their ancestors used to call home.
“There was some healing,” Kight said of last year’s powwow. “But it takes time. Where the healing starts is by acknowledging the event happened.”
Kight would like to see the goodwill generated by the powwow spread beyond Meeker.
“Until, I think, this country offers an apology (for its treatment of Native Americans), which has happened in Australia and Canada, I don’t think that healing is going to move forward as fast as it should.
“Maybe that will happen with President Obama,” Kight went on to say. “I don’t know if it’s on their agenda or not. I just know from my friendships with indigenous peoples and listening to them, this is an important thing that needs to happen. Sort of like a comparison on the national level of what happened with the powwow here.”
That’s why the Smoking River Pow Wow is such an important event, Kight said.
“This is a good community, and I think this will be a good step for the community,” Kight said. “I think it will help put Meeker on the map.”
For more information about the powwow, visit www.smokingriverpowwow.com, and contact Lockwood at lynn@smokingriverpowwow.com to receive the event’s newsletter.