14th Annual Veterans Gourd Dance - New Mexico VA Health Care System
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14th Annual Veterans Gourd Dance

Gourd Dancers Enter the Parade Grounds

Inter-Tribal Veterans Association, led by Head Singer, Paul Bemore, open the ceremony with the Spirit Song

By Ron Bassford/NMVAHCS Public Affairs Specialist
Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Gourd Dance, also known as the “The Warriors Dance” and despite its roots are clouded most would agree that it originates with the Kiowa or the Commanche tribes.

The Gourd Dance symbolizes the story of warriors that come together as one to honor those who have severed our great country.

“We’re honoring all the veterans that never received their honors when they returned back from the wars,” said Leonard Anthony, events Master of Ceremonies.

The dance is centered around Grandfather Drum, the heartbeat of Mother Earth. Many will say they get their strength from the drum. There is also a metal rattle that the dancers use to accompany the drum beat, while the opposite hand holds a fan made of feathers, usually those of an eagle.

This time-honored tradition has become a sacred part of the Raymond G. Murphy Medical Center. This year marks the 14th annual Gourd Dance, that were held on the parade grounds. Many in attendance were from tribes near and far. The dance honors the brave men and women who have and are serving in the military.

Tilford Brown, American Indian Program Manager-NMVAHCS, describes the dance as entertaining but also a spiritual event. He stated, “It is a place were one can feel at ease as the ceremonial songs are being sung.”

During the gathering, some of the spectators took advantage of going in front of the special staff, which had the head of an eagle, and placed some sage in a pot at the base of the staff. As the sage smoldered, the person cleansed themselves of any negative thoughts while offering up prayers for family and friends.

There are many symbolic rituals that are done during the ceremony. One is entering the circle. One must enter clockwise and exit in a clockwise direction. The counter-clockwise movement opposes the natural world.

As one looks on at the ceremonial dances and listens to the beat of the drums, you can feel a sense of peace and an overall calmness. The dances are very sacred to many.

Miss Indian Piedra Vista, Alana Davis, who attended the Gourd Dance for the first time stated, “The event is similar to a warrior dance I had witnessed in the past.” “The Gourd Dance is very special and sacred to me and my family, we traveled from Farmington, New Mexico, just to be here.”

No matter one’s reason for coming and witnessing such a beautiful and sacred event, one can get a feel for the native culture. Those sitting with eyes closed and listening to the drum beat may have felt a sense of ease. The rhythmic sounds of the drum, the sage that lingered in the air and the sense of feeling like you are home, creates something within one’s inner core.

The Warrior Dance also brings together a tradition of eating a meal with family and friends. The fry bread, beans, red chile, cold water melon and a sense of belonging to something greater than one’ self can be felt throughout the parade grounds.

This experience must be felt.

We want to thank Gourd Dance Organizer, Tilford Brown, the NMVAHCS American Indian Program Committee, and in conjunction with the EEO Special Emphasis Program Committee for putting together this very memorable event. We look forward to next year’s Gourd Dance and many more to come.

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