EVERETT – Dozens of American Indian dancers will gather today within sight of where an ancient Indian village once stood.
With drum beats and dance steps that have evolved over the centuries, participants in the 16th annual Hebolb Powwow at Everett Community College will recall regional history that stretches far back beyond the history books.
Hundreds – some say thousands – of years ago, the tip of the peninsula that is now the city of Everett held a village called Hebolb. It was home to about 1,200 people.
“That was a big population 6,000 years ago,” said Mona Halcomb, adviser to the college’s United Native American Council, the group coordinating today’s powwow.
The village was a major trading spot for Pacific Northwest tribes.
When settlers arrived from the east, American Indians began to fall ill, Tulalip Tribes Chairman Stan Jones Sr. said.
“Settlers gave them smallpox blankets as gifts,” a disease to which the tribes that had no immunity, he said.
When the Hebolb settlement finally ended, only about five villagers were left to walk away, Jones said.
Descendants of those few survivors are scattered among reservations throughout the region, including the Tulalip Reservation.
“Those were our people,” Jones said.
Today, the memory of that tragedy will give way to celebration when as many as 100 dancers from across the Northwest breathe life back into traditions that almost died along with the village.
The dance contest will have categories, including women’s fancy dance, men’s grass dancing and dancing by “tiny tots” and teens.
Five women, all EvCC students and members of the United Native American Council, have worked for months to organize the powwow, said Lorna Edge-Onsel, 44, leader of the group. Requests for dancers were posted at powwow Web sites and in Indian Country Today, a national American Indian newspaper.
“I contacted every tribe within Washington state on both sides of the mountains, and also within Oregon and Idaho, to invite people,” Edge-Onsel said.
Edge-Onsel, a communications student and the mother of two, is a member of the Upper Skagit Tribe.
Dozens of vendors are expected to provide food and goods crafted by American Indians. There will be two grand entries, when dance competitors enter the building led by an honor guard from the Upper Skagit Tribe.
“This started as just a small powwow, as part of a multicultural week in our cafeteria,” said Earl Martin, one of the powwow’s original coordinators. “It got bigger through word of mouth, and now a lot of people say they enjoy the spirit and the energy.”
Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or firstname.lastname@example.org.