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A GATHERING IN AGNESS

Indians wear eagle feathers in honor of the creator; the drum beat is the heart of Mother Earth. ().
Indians wear eagle feathers in honor of the creator; the drum beat is the heart of Mother Earth. ().

Pilot story and photos

by Valliant Corley

AGNESS – Officials of the Confederated Tribes of the Lower Rogue River called this year's powwow, held at the site of the last major Indian battle on the Rogue River, a huge success.

"This whole weekend was a blast," said Nick Sixkiller of Eugene, who served his fourth year last weekend as master of ceremonies for the Gathering of the People.

"It was a good crowd, as usual," he said. "We had a few more dancers than last year."

The annual powwow is open to the public without charge.

"We're celebrating our ancestry," Sixkiller said. "It's a social event and we use it to educate the public, dispel myths and show what we're doing as a modern Indian people."

Sixkiller said his job as MC is to explain Indian life.

"We have six categories of dancers," he said. "I explain the origin of the dance and what tribe it came from."

He said most non-Indians have a distorted idea of the Indian dances, primarily from movies.

"As far as the drum beat, it's the heart of Mother Earth," he said. "We don't have the tom-toms, or the tom-tom beat heard in movies."

He explains why Indians wear eagle feathers.

"It's in honor of the creator," he said. "It's a gift of the creator. The way we wear our eagle feathers, it's a prayer to the creator."

Military veterans, both Indian and non-Indian, were featured at the three grand entries held at the powwow, two on Saturday and one on Sunday.

"We encourage veterans to come so we can honor them, Indians and non-Indians, for that service to protect our ancestral lands," Sixkiller said.

The annual event began about 15 years ago and the Confederated Tribes took it over 12 years ago after it became too much for the original organizers to handle, said Donald L. Fry, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Lower Rogue River, who organized the event. The Confederated Tribes are Chetco and Tutuni Indians, who are asking Congress to recognize them as a combined tribe.

The site near Foster Bar is about six miles from Agness.

"We had a small place, but we just outgrew it. We went to the Forest Service and they said we could have it at Big Bend," Fry said.

The tribe held a free salmon barbecue for all comers on Saturday night and served a free breakfast Sunday morning.

Following Sunday's breakfast, it was time to go over to nearby Foster Bar on the Rogue River for the annual canoe race, featuring two dugout canoes, both about 14 feet long.

"There was a big redwood. We split it in half. Both canoes were made out of the same log. You've got to go upstream, got to paddle. Then you've got to come back down. Getting up there is the thing."

Following those races, anyone who wanted to ride in one of those canoes was given a chance before everyone returned to Big Bend for Sunday's grand entry and dances.

Dea and David Lowry are directors of security for the powwow and have held that position for about 11 years.

"We make sure there's no disruption," Dea said. "We make sure there's no one using drugs or alcohol, no campfires. We're making sure there's peace."

She said they have few problems enforcing security.

"Once in a while, we'll have someone show up who's been drinking," she said. "We ask them to leave and come back when they're sober."

Beva Bell of Powers is the director of the powwow.

"As soon as this is done, we have to go back and clean up," she said. "We have to make sure everything's put back the way it was."

She said that work is worth it.

"As long as everyone enjoys themselves," she said. "It's not about me. It's about the people that come there, to celebrate their ancestry."

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