From dancing to bird singing to crafts, Paiute powwow captures imagination

Southern Nevadans whose knowledge of Native American culture begins and ends with Gene Autry movies and theme parks will find this weekend's 23rd annual Las Vegas Paiute Tribe Snow Mountain Pow Wow an eye-opener.

Not to mention, Marcia Mahone says, a whole lot of fun.

The powwow, which is put on each year by the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, will include music, dancing and singing by Native Americans from locales that include Nevada, Utah, Arizona, California and Canada.

Powwow coordinator Mahone says the event serves, first, as a social gathering that enables its participants to reconnect. Then, she adds, it's a way for the tribes to share with others their traditions and culture and "a kind of giving back to the Las Vegas community."

The powwow, which runs Friday and Saturday, will include more than 100 dancers ranging in age from "our tiny tots to our golden-agers," Mahone notes.

Doors open at 5 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday. Then, at 7 p.m. Friday and at noon and 6 p.m. Saturday comes the Grand Entry, which Mahone calls "the must-see of the event. During the Grand Entry, you'll see all of our dancers enter the arena."

On Friday, the Grand Entry will be followed by dance and drumming events, while Saturday's schedule includes bird singing and dancing events.

Newcomers won't be confused, however, because a master of ceremonies will introduce and narrate the proceedings. In addition, Mahone says informational booklets offering a brief description of the dances will be distributed.

In addition to the events in the arena, the powwow will feature vendor booths where guests can purchase food -- Indian tacos are an annual favorite -- and shop for authentic jewelry, pottery and other arts and crafts.

"One of the unique things about the arts and crafts and our vendors is, many of the artists are in their booths, so you're buying directly from the artists and craftsmen," Mahone says.

Armed forces veterans will be honored throughout the weekend. The Southern Paiute Veteran Association will form the color guard for each Grand Entry, and during Saturday's noon Grand Entry will perform its traditional salute, a Native American-inspired rendition of "Taps."

Mahone says the powwow is suitable for the entire family. Except for designated "social dances" during which the public is invited to dance in the arena, guests are asked to not enter or cross the arena.

Mahone also asks guests who wish to photograph individuals to first ask for permission.

The powwow will be held rain or shine. Mahone recommends that guests wear sunblock and appropriate shoes and clothing and that they remember to stay hydrated.

"We do have limited spaces available for seating," she says, but those who plan to stay for a few hours are "welcome to bring folding chairs or lawn chairs."

More information, as well as directions to the powwow site, can be found on the event's website (www.

The Snow Mountain Pow Wow may well mark many guests' first in-person exposure to Native American culture. In fact, Mahone says the fact that Las Vegas is home to the Paiute tribe is, for many, a revelation in itself.

"What I hear is, 'I've lived in the valley for so many years, and I didn't even know a tribe existed here,' " she says.

But, at the powwow, "they can see this firsthand," Mahone says, and realize that "we are a living, breathing culture."

Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@ or 702-383-0280.