Pow Wow at San Xavier del Bac Mission

San Xavier del Bac Mission

In the shadow of one of the most amazing mission churches in the southwest a pow wow is held each year. I couldn’t recall attending one before and as I have always been interested in Native American culture and history, I was glad this one was held during our time in Tucson. I was especially glad that it was at San Xavier, a church that can take your breath away with its beauty.

White Dove of the Desert

Known as the “White Dove of the Desert,” the mission was founded by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. The current building was completed in 1797. This is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona. Church services are still held regularly and you can visit the inside to see the original statuary and paintings.

San Xavier Altar

The pow wow is an opportunity for the local Native American community as well as other tribes to meet and celebrate their culture and traditions through dancing, drumming and singing. The pow wow includes all ages from the very young to the most elderly.

Pow Wow Dancers

Throughout the afternoon I attended there was dancing in the arena for all as well as separate contests for certain age groups such as children, the young and older women and men. There were also dances that showcased certain skills or represented special traditions.

Traditional dance for the young men

There was some incredible talent among the dancers and the colorful, elaborate costumes were eye catching works of art.

One of my favorite costumes can be seen on the left
The joy of dancing!

What touched me the most was the joy and enthusiasm for dancing and celebrating that the very young shared that day. It was a pleasure to see tribal customs and heritage being passed on to a generation happy to be a part of this ongoing tradition.

A young participant twirls in his costume

Native American drummers and singers are an important part of the pow wow, the “heartbeat” of the event and several small groups of them took turns. I took the photo below of three sitting around their drum with the back of the mission in view.

Drumming and Singing

It would be hard for me to come to a Native American celebration and not enjoy some frybread. Groups were cooking up this delicacy and serving it with honey, powdered sugar or as a Navajo taco. I went for the taco with beans, green chile pork and toppings. There were also a number of tables offering Native American jewelry, pottery, baskets, clothing and other handmade items. I didn’t look at them too long as the music and dancing kept drawing me back to the arena.

Frybread stand

During the pow wow visitors were invited to join the dancing, even those that were not Native American or in festive attire. I couldn’t resist. It was a powerful experience joining the dancers. Moving around the circle, following the beat while gazing at the Mission, I thought how neat it was to have this opportunity as a full time traveler. This is what exploring is all about and for all of this I am grateful.

Young women dance in beautiful costumes

I hope you enjoyed reading about my pow wow experience. Stay tuned for more exploring in Tucson, Arizona as I write about our trip to beautiful Sabino Canyon.

One thought on “Pow Wow at San Xavier del Bac Mission”

  1. Incredible shots of the dresses, so photogenic. What a great experience. I was so happy to go through Native American lands but did not experience much of the culture. What an incredible experience

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