From Where You Can See The Mountains

Tamkaliks Celebration

Each July, the Homeland becomes a place of reunion for descendants of the original inhabitants of Wal’waama, the Wallowa Country. Year after year, participants enjoy three days of dancing and drumming, culminating in a walasit service and Friendship feast. Descendants, locals, and visitors attend together. There are many ways to be involved, contribute, and enjoy. Camping and dancer registration is free. Winners and drums are paid in cash. Big ticket raffle items include a buffalo hide and a Pendleton blanket each year. Food and craft vendors are plentiful. All the comforts of town are just a quick walk across the river.

 2018 Nez Perce Tamkaliks Celebration and Friendship Feast is Friday, July 20th - Sunday, July 22nd at the Tamkaliks Powwow Ground in Wallowa, OR.

The Tamkaliks Celebration (formerly Wallowa Band Descendants Friendship Potluck & Powwow) is a celebration and recognition of the continuing Nez Perce presence in the Wallowa Valley. A standing committee of the WBNPTIC, Inc. oversees and organizes the Tamkaliks Celebration. The Tamkaliks Committee President is Brian Conner. He may be reached through the WBNPTIC, Inc. office.



The Tamkaliks story is best told in the words of one of the original organizers, Terry Crenshaw:

In 1989, Taz Conner, a descendant of Old Chief Joseph, Tuekakas, was invited by the City of Wallowa to help them plan some kind of Native American festival in Wallowa. It was decided that a friendship potluck and powwow would be the most appropriate event. Since that time, a group of ten to fifteen local volunteers have met, planned, and worked nearly year-round to conduct the event. During the powwow and potluck, about forty to fifty local people and ten to twelve Native Americans help in putting it on.

Our first year, 1990, we held our powwow in the high school gym and the potluck on the school grounds. We had about fifty participants and all felt it was a great success. By the third year we had to move to a five acre site and set up our powwow and feast outside because it had grown too large for the gym. In 1998 the Wallowa Band Nez Perce Pow Wow and Friendship Potluck was renamed Tamkaliks (from where you can see the mountains) and moved to the new Wallowa Band Nez Perce Trail Interpretive Center prospective site at the edge of the city of Wallowa.

Dance Categories

Grand Entry

Each dance session begins with a Grand Entry, a procession of dancers. The Flag Bearers lead the procession carrying the Eagle Staff, American Flag, The Canadian Flag, and frequently, the MIA-POW Flag. Being a Flag Bearer is an honor usually given to a veteran, a respected traditional dancer, or a traditional elder. Everyone is asked to stand during the Grand Entry and men should remove their head coverings unless it has an eagle feather. After all the dancers are in the Arbor, a flag song is sung to honor the Eagle Staff and flags. Then a respected person, usually an elder, offers a prayer. This is followed by a victory song during which the Eagle Staff and flags are placed in their standards.

Dance Contests

While the dancers are competing with one another, they are also in contest with the drummers and singers. A drum group may sing a trick song with many surprise stops. The best dancers know the songs, and dance closely to the beat to hit every drum stop. Judges look for dancers to reflect their own personal style as well as their ability to carry on traditions that go with specific songs or dances. The dancers will be evaluated for footwork, rhythm, agility, and demeanor. Regalia should be appropriate and reflect care and maintenance. A dancer may be disqualified or disqualify him\herself if an article of regalia fall off. Dancers follow directions from the Whipman & Whipwoman.

Eagle Feather Pick Up – Eagles and eagle feathers are revered by many tribes of this continent because of the bird’s characteristics, abilities and closeness to the Creator. Eagle feathers are a symbol of honor and good medicine. When an eagle feather or fluff is on the ground, all other proceedings cease until a veteran ceremonially retrieves the feather. The feather symbolizes a fallen warrior.

Circle Dance – Everyone can join in this dance of friendship. The circle of dancers moves to the lift in the clockwise direction and three circle dance songs will be sung in succession. Variations of this nearly universal Native American social dance include the Oklahoma two-step, the rabbit dance, the owl dance, the serpentine, and the Indian square dance (in a circle) which mimics pioneer square dance moves to tribal songs.

Men & Boys Traditional – Dancers typically wear a breechcloth, moccasins, feather bustle, a porcupine and deer hair roach with a spreader in the middle made of bone, rawhide or leather in which roach feathers are mounted. Dancers compete to special songs. In the Crow Hop, dancers’ feet make slow deliberate moves to the beat, imitating a crow hopping. Actions in the Sneak Up illustrate events in war or hunting such as tracking enemies or game. In the Duck and Dive, the hard drumbeats represent cannon fire and dancers duck in unison to avoid being hit. The best dancers are light on their feet regardless of size and weight, match the drum with every move, bend close to the ground and use the whole body to dance.

Men’s Fast & Fancy – Extremely colorful beadwork, elaborate feather bustles, ribbons, scarves, horsehair tips, angora bands, sheep bells, a roach headdress and dance sticks all punctuate the most spectacular display of dance stunts and movements in this very fast paced contest that began in the 1950’s. After WWII, Korea, and the federal Indian Relocation policy that moved Indians to urban centers for jobs, many pan-Indian powwows sprang up across the U.S., and so did this dance. Drummers may orchestrate many quick stops in a song to test the dancers and to highlight the dancers’ athletic abilities.

Grass Dance – Wearing lots of fringe (representing tall blades of prairie grass), a porcupine and deer hair roach and no bustle, this dance was popularized by Northern Plains peoples where tall prairie grasses needed to be flattened for encampments or gatherings. Moves show how they would gracefully bend, fold, and weave greases to an even surface, and dancers’ ribbons and yarn sway as grasses would.

Women’s Fancy Shawl – Wearing a cloth fitted dress with ribbon and appliqué and complementing shawl with long fringe, leggings, cuffs, moccasins, hair ties, choker, and earrings, this dance imitates the rapid and fluid movements of butterflies. The light spinning and jumping moves requires athleticism & timing with the drum. Watch for complex footwork as well as poise, grace and agility.

Women & Girls Traditional – Plateau Women’s dresses may be made of buckskin, wool, velvet, or dresses are adorned with dentalia, cowry, or abalone shells, elk teeth, ribbon, seed and bugle beads as well as fringe on the sleeves and hem. Plateau dresses typically have shorter fringe and more flared skirts than plains dresses. Hand woven hats, headbands or beaded hair ornaments with feathers may be worn. In this category, two songs are typically sung in contests so that the females demonstrate both a slow and graceful straight style war dance and a circle dance. Historically, Plateau women did not war dance but would encircle the drum or dance area and keep time with the music standing in place gently bouncing or lightly swaying. In rare instances women who had committed deeds in combat such as taking the life of an enemy, rescuing others, or escaping from enemy captivity would join the men in the war dance. After WWII, as many women veterans returned from service in the armed forces it became more common to see women war dance. The dance exemplifies light-footedness, grace, modesty, and dignity with each song.

Women’s Jingle Dress – In 1920, after a medicine man’s granddaughter became ill, his spirit guides told him in a dream to make her a dress that would please the ear and have her dance in it to heal her. The dress is decorated with rolled up snuff can lids or baking powder lids hanging from ribbon. There are two styles of jingle dance – a slide step and straight.


2018 Winners

Women’s Traditional - Golden
1) Carla Timentwa, Nespelem
2) Lynn Pinkham, Lapwaii
3) Kate Blackwolf Bevis, Pendleton

Women’s Traditional - Adult
1 ) Elizabeth Sam, Owyhee
2) Katie Harris, Pendleton
3) Anna Harris, Pendleton

Women’s Traditional - Teen
1) Justine Chasing Horse, Lapwaii
2) Dominique Ellenwood, Spokane
3) Virgilina Walsey, Granger

Junior Girl's Traditional
1) Layloni Crane, Mission
2) Leona Smith, Lapwaii
3) Tamisa Sherwood, Yakima

Jingle Dance, All Ages
1) Dominique Ellenwood, Spokane
2) Teata Ellenwood, Spokane
3) Natasha Smith, Lapwaii

Fancy Shawl, All Ages
1) Mary Harris, Pendleton
2) Abi Kordatzky, Pendleton
3) Wetalu Henry, Lewiston

Men's Traditional - Golden
1) Gary Sam, Owyhee
2) John Bevis, Pendleton
3) Bill Timentwa, Nespelem

Men's Traditional - Adult
1) Eric Broncheau, Portland
2) Lewis Halfmoon, Mission
3) Francis Dionne, Boise

Men's Traditional - Teen
1) Tixapo Campbell, Culdesac
2) Alex Williams, Athena
3) Aiden Wolf, Cayuse

Junior Boy's Traditional
1) Lewis Allen, Lapwaii
2) Weptas Brokie, Pendleton
3) Emeny Kordatzkey, Pendleton

Grass Dance, All Ages
1) Robert Tewawina, Lapwaii
2) Wilber Oatman, Pendleton
3) Francis Dionne, Boise

Fast and Fancy, All Ages
1) Lucas Thomas, Owyhee
2) Rod Begay, Satus
3) Tony Smith, Lapwaii

War Bonnet Special
1) Steve Axtell, Lapwai
2) Wayne Smartlowit, Toppenish
3) Tony Smith, Lapwaii