Pine Nut Festival Pow Wow of the Paiute and visiting tribes

September 25, 2007

* By Areta Frost Martin


Agai Dicutta! Three days of Indian festivities – the aroma of frybread, cradleboard contests, baskets and beads, talent shows, rodeo, traditional songs and drumming, hand games, and barbecues – engaged the Paiute people of Walker River, Nevada and myriad visitors to the well known Pine Nut Festival in September.


As usual Jim Euler, who pastors Schurz United Methodist Church, seized the opportunity to set up a worship circle in the trees and to fill the air with enticing guitar rhythms and hymns and the smell of a sizzling ranch breakfast on open fires. The coming together was powerful on Sunday.


Pow Wow means “coming together,” the commune of tribes or nations originally for talks of peace or preparations for war. Pow Wow today denotes a celebration of customs and joining of families, and camaraderie enhanced by the elegance of native dancers from many tribes in elaborate colorful feathers, regalia, and jewelry. There are tiny dancers mingled among those with age and experience. There are awards. There is royalty. There is celebration.


At the Pine Nut festival in Schurz this year, Indian nations were represented from Canada and throughout the United States. But activities, as always, were open to all.


In the circle of trees, the name “Yah Weh” rises into the air. “Yah Weh.” The God of the Hebrew people. “Yah Weh” … the name for Great Spirit, for the Christian believers here.


For the first time, almost the entire United Methodist congregation of Round Valley UMC in Covelo, California joined the Pow Wow and the worship circle with their Paiute pastor, Roy Piña. (Brother Michael Piña, pastor of “The Church of the Redwoods” UMC in Klamath, California could not attend this year.) Sister Vivian Wright was all smiles as she introduced us all around to members of their tribe and their church.


Pastor Piña, like our Jim Euler, is musical as well as magnetic. He included guitar and drumming in our circle along with sharing his faith. Music is an important expression of worship for “The People.” Pastor Dan Mosley of Fernley, native member of the noted “120 Drums,” also shared his music and his Christian experiences, and our John Smith joined in with his guitar. Onlookers shyly or cautiously hovered at the margins, responding to our chorus in their own tongues. One young man decided to give Christian witness and testimony to the group, finishing with songs in his native tongue – until he was overdue for the rodeo grounds where he was scheduled to be performing. 


The connection – and the outreach and versatility of our church members – is always inspiring. We sometimes need to be reminded of the many cultures in our world that Methodism infuses.


* Areta Frost Martin is a member of Schurz UMC.