Children Catch the Spirit, but Rain Dance Is a Fizzle

All the dancing, chanting or Indian magic couldn’t coax a drop of rain out of the Orange County sky Friday.

Without a dark cloud in sight, Papago Indian teen-agers clasped hands with 30 local schoolchildren and performed an ancient tribal rain dance on the UC Irvine campus.

The event was part of the annual American Indian Festival, now in its sixth year.

There were colorful Indian headdresses and painted faces, a continuous drum beat, and a strange chant that sounded like “Hey-ya-ya.” The chant pleaded for the i’itoi , a spirit in the Papago tribe, to bring rain.


But Irvine was showered in sunshine, not rain. Nevertheless, it was a chance for the children to learn about the culture of native Americans, particularly that of the Papago tribe, which dwells in southern Arizona.

Mike Havier, a Papago Indian and a student at Sherman Indian High School in Riverside, said Indians consider the rain dance one of their most sacred ceremonies.

Then why didn’t it work Friday?

“You have to fast before you dance,” said Havier. “I didn’t expect rain to come down today.”


But does it ever work?

“It works at home,” he said.

Still, it was a powwow for the children, who could play with real Indians.

Six-year-old Inger Snyder, a first-grader at Tyna School in Laguna Beach, was one of the schoolchildren who joined in the dance. She said she “likes Indians,” and knows a lot about them.

“I drew a picture of an Indian once,” she boasted.