A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden
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American Indians honor heritage, history
“It’s continuation of the culture,” said Furst, who 20 years ago helped organize the Numaga Indian Days celebration that is staged this Labor Day weekend.
“You see friends you haven’t seen in a long time and meet new people.”
Families from Canada and the western United States will gather, feast, dance and play drums for the 20th annual Numaga event. More than 2,000 people join the celebration that ends Sunday at the powwow grounds in Hungry Valley. That’s where a variety of American Indian artifacts, foods and music that emphasize indigenous traditions and opens the door for all people to experience and learn about their heritage.
This traditional family gathering assists the retention of native heritage, supports tolerance and accesses community services.
Rita Imus understands the value of this exposure. Her mother encouraged her to dance by making her outfits and taking her to different events. Several years later, Imus is handing down that tradition to her two daughters, her son and her nephew, who will dance at the event.
“If the older people aren’t teaching the younger generations, they (traditions) will die,” Imus said.
The name, Numaga, honors a Paiute leader who negotiated peaceful relations with the white settlers in Northern Nevada and the Pyramid Lake Tribe. While the leader was committed to peace, he led his people to the victory of the Pyramid Lake War of 1860 when harmony with silver miners in the area went awry.
“For me that’s a strong symbol of culture and tradition for people,” said Michon Eben, a councilwoman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony.
Money, logistics and finding an adequate venue took required fundraising and convincing neighboring communities of the event’s benefits. Twenty-years later, the event continues to grow and flourish.
The celebration began with a “Grand Entry” led by elder men bearing feather and flag staffs honoring the American flag and the Reno-Sparks flag. What followed was a tribute to war veterans and a prayer blessing for the event.
“Our people have always defended this land,” said Dan Thayer, chairman of the event. “A member of the military becomes this type of warrior defending their land.”
Big Bear, a drum group from Alberta, Canada, is this year’s host drum. Drum beats, songs and dances blend to create a sense of nostalgia.
“Dances can tell stories and (by telling these stories) Indians honor our ancestors,” colony Councilwoman Susan Quartz-Holling said.
Event activities include dance competitions and shows of more than 300 dancers, drum contests, a three-mile race/walk to benefit the RSIC’s diabetes program, a golf club tournament and a Miss Numaga contest. About $40,000 will be awarded as prize money to contestants.
“If everyone goes away having enjoyed themselves, then we are happy,” Thayer said.
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