Thunder & Lightning Powwow Draws 25,000 to Morongo

The 26th annual celebration of Native American culture and heritage attracted competitive dancers and drummers from across the U.S. and Canada.

Morongo Indian Reservation – An estimated 25,000 spectatorsgathered to celebrate Native American culture and traditions through dance, music and art during the 26th Annual Morongo Thunder & Lightning Powwow last weekend.

More than 650 Native American dancers and 25 drum groups from across the U.S. and Canada competed for prize money during the three-day powwow hosted by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians from Friday Sept. 23 through Sunday Sept. 25. As in past years, the powwow began on Native American Day in California.

“Every year, Morongo welcomes thousands of visitors who want to experience the beauty of Native American culture through dance, music and art,” said Tribal Chairman Robert Martin of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. “Our annual powwow allows us to share our rich traditions with others but it also helps us celebrate and preserve our heritage for future generations.”

One of the most highly anticipated powwows of the year, the Morongo Thunder & Lightning Powwow included dozens of booths selling authentic Native arts and crafts such as unique jewelry, fine beadwork, and pottery, clothing, and basketry items. Native food vendors also were on hand selling delicious homemade Indian tacos, tamales, and tasty Indian frybread.

Every day was highlighted by the Grand Entry which quickly transformed the arena into a spectacular combination of motion and music as hundreds of men, women and children crowded the floor to dance in traditional regalia to the sounds of competitive drum groups and singers. Dancers and drummers scored points during the competitions based on regalia, performance and other categories.

“My favorite part was watching the flag ceremony,” said 8-year old Gavin Thompson of Beaumont, who attended the powwow with his brother, Cameron, and their family. “It was really cool seeing all of the dancers move at the same time.”

His 9-year-old brother, Cameron, added. “I really like the Indian tacos. Frybread is way better than tortillas.”

Patrick Karg of Cabazon said he and his family have come to the Morongo powwow for at least 15 years, saying they enjoy watching the dancing and drumming, especially during the Grand Entry.  

Dave Baird and his wife spent part of their time at the powwow Friday evening browsing the booths of the Indian market, looking at handmade jewelry and other handcrafted art.

“I’ve been to some other powwows in the area and I have to say Morongo’s is the best,” the Morongo Valley retiree. “We try to come every year because it’s a fun event.”

The powwow also included bird singing and peon games, which are the traditional songs and games of Morongo and other tribes in Southern California

The 26th Annual Morongo Thunder & Lightning Powwow was held at the Morongo Event Center beside the Morongo Casino, Resort and Spa.