As brightly colored feathers in his headdress of porcupine hairs fluttered in the wind, Clifton Hall danced almost nonstop, his buckskin moccasins shuffling rhythmically to the drum beats and chants.
It was the 14-year-old West Covina youth's debut, but he wasn't the least bit nervous as he jumped into dance after dance alongside older veterans at the 19th annual Orange County Indian Center Powwow on Sunday in Costa Mesa.
"It's pretty fun, just being out here with friends," said the full-blooded Indian of the Winnebago, Yakima and Picouris tribes, perspiring in a green tunic with colored feathers, beads and other ornaments that his family "all pitched in" to make. "And checking the chicks," he added during a brief break.
The weekend event drew more than 6,000 people to the Orange County fairgrounds, including more than 1,000 members of 67 American Indian tribes, who paid tribute to their traditions and celebrated with friends.
There were almost nonstop tribal dances such as the buffalo and snake dances and booths where Indian fried bread and other foods were served. It was also an opportunity for Indians to sell their handcrafted quilts, jewelry, pottery, rugs and art work.
"But more important, (the pow-wow) is to get people together," said Jack Stafford, executive director of the Orange County Indian Center in Garden Grove, which sponsors the annual festivities to raise funds for social services for Indians living in Southern California.
He said the center serves more than 80,000 Indians scattered throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties, many of whom have difficulty adjusting to life in urban areas. The powwow helps to ease their transition from rural and reservation life, he said, and also serves to make non-Indians aware of the culture and traditions of American Indians.
"We're trying to rejuvenate some of the heritage that's been lost," said Stafford, a Choctaw Indian. "It's a time for us to share a little bit of our culture that we're very proud of. . . .
"A powwow is a gathering of friends," he said. "They call it a war dance, but it's not really a war dance. It was more often done to celebrate the end of a war because the tribes could be friends again."
This year, Lindy Murdock of Los Angeles was selected to be powwow princess. Murdock, 19, a Kickapoo and Ute Indian, said she has been to pow wows in Oklahoma, Utah and New Mexico, but that the Orange County event is one of the most enjoyable.