It's touted as the single largest annual gathering of Native Americans on Earth, and it happens right here in Albuquerque. The Gathering of Nations powwow is currently in its 22nd year, and if you haven't yet witnessed the spectacle of more than 3,000 American Indian musicians and dancers making UNM's Pit Arena tremble under the force of Native feet, drums and vocal chords, then do yourself a favor and check it out this week. You'll never see or hear anything else like it.
More than 150,000 people are expected to descend into the Pit this weekend for this astonishing celebration of Native American culture. The Indian Trader's Market and food court on Powwow Alley presents an opportunity to pick up some amazing stuff from more than 800 artists, craftsmen and other traders. This year Powwow Alley also offers a concert stage called Reach the Rez which will spotlight various contemporary acts by some of the best Native American musicians and other entertainers in the business. Even if you missed out on the main event inside the arena, folks like Litefoot, Red Hand Rhythm Band, Doug E Fresh, Malo and more will make the price of admission worth every penny.
One of the other greatly anticipated aspects of the event is the yearly crowning of Miss Indian World. More than 30 Native American women from throughout Indian country compete based on their dancing ability, personal charm and knowledge of tribal traditions. Once crowned, Miss Indian World becomes an ambassador representing Native interests throughout the world. This year, the pageant will take place on Thursday, April 28, at 7 p.m. at the Albuquerque Convention Center with the crowning capping off the whole powwow the evening of Saturday, April 30, at the Pit.
Then, of course, there's the monster powwow itself. You can stuff yourself on great food. You can buy lots of cool stuff. But the main reason to come to the Gathering of Nations is to observe the roster of dramatic competitions between tribes. This year, more than $140,000 in cash and prizes will be doled out to the best of the bunch. There will be 32 different dance categories, three major singing competitions as well as an array of drumming contests. Trust me, it's as good as any Lobos basketball game any day of the week, and the crowd will be just as rowdy.
The Gathering of Nations is one of the best and biggest folk festivals in the entire world. You don't have to be Native to attend. Actually, if you aren't a Native American and haven't seen this amazing local spectacle, you should definitely do so this weekend. It's a window onto a colorful, exciting world with which even many longtime Albuquerqueans are totally unfamiliar.