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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | West County / LAKE CASITAS

Tribes Celebrate Harvest With Dances, Singing

October 18, 1998|JENNIFER HAMM

More than a dozen Native American tribes from around the country kicked off the weekend-long Harvest Celebration Powwow with a day of intertribal dances at Lake Casitas on Saturday.

Dancing and singing are central to the event, which also features food and crafts.

"It's a way to keep their culture alive and allow the public to come in and learn about the culture," said Dick Wixon, who organized the event for Visions in Time, a nonprofit statewide education foundation.

Early in the day, a Ponca Indian named Fireshaker performed a traditional blessing by burning cedar and sage and reciting special prayers.

"Before we do everything, we have to thank the great spirits for everything we have," said Fireshaker, an Ojai artist.

Afterward, the singing and dancing began as Native Americans and others gathered around a large circle to watch.

Dave Winn and Penny Thinnes-Winn of Oxnard watched the performances while catching some shade under a tree. The couple said they returned to the annual event for a second year in a row because of the respect they have for the Native American culture.

"It's really kind of awesome," Dave Winn said.

James Gehrke of Oxnard brought his two children to the powwow so they could learn about a different culture. As their dad watched the dancing, Brooke, 6, and Connor, 3, played with their new wooden flutes and showed off their face paintings.

"There's a diversity here," Gehrke said. "It's a bunch of people enjoying a nice day--some for their religion and some for the ambience."

The powwow, which runs through today, has something for everyone.

With the sparkling blue waters of Lake Casitas as the backdrop, the food selection included everything from Indian tacos to elephant ears. There were also scores of booths selling Native American jewelry, moccasins and books.

Fireshaker said the powwow's purpose is to remind people how life used to be for Native Americans.

"The reason to get together is to bring back the old ways," he said. "What we're doing is celebrating each other."

The powwow runs today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults and $4 for children.

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