Not many people can say they spent five hours with movie star Johnny Depp – but Rotorua’s Katerina Pihera can.

Ms Pihera, whose stage name is Princess ATAK, was able to meet the heart-throb during a trip to New Mexico where she also helped run indigenous events.

Spending five hours hanging out with Depp and meeting thousands of native American Indians were just two of the many highlights of Ms Pihera’s trip to New Mexico.

Ms Pihera has just returned from taking part in the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow conference in Albuquerque, where she helped run events including the Miss Indian World pageant, singing on Stage 49, working as an MC and touring with Native Roots. She also played solo on stage at the event and spent part of a day with Depp. Ms Pihera met Depp while attending a native Comanche adoption ceremony, where he gave her a pottery gift. The film star has been adopted as a Comanche.

“It was just awesome. He’s really down to earth and humble. He’s so handsome. I was buzzing out,” she said.

Ms Pihera said Depp told her he hadn’t visited New Zealand yet, but was keen to. “He says he’d love to come here.”

More than 500 tribes were represented at the Pow Wow.

Ms Pihera was on a three-month internship with Emergence Productions and said she never realised before going to the indigenous pow wow there were so many different Indian tribes with such diverse “regalia”. “It just blew me away, all the different dances and regalia. Some had feathers, buckskin and intricate bead work.

“There was a grand entrance twice each day consisting of all the dancers as they entered the pit. Sometimes it go so full the cast and dancers couldn’t fit.

“They came from all over America. I had no idea there were so many native cultures.”

Hamilton’s reggae band NRG Rising was a “big hit”, Ms Pihera said. “It was just amazing. They really blew New Mexico away.”

Maori and Indian joined together to open the conference, Ms Pihera said. “There was a strong Maori presence. We are seen as a really strong culture. Everyone knew something about Maori culture by the end of the event.”

Ms Pihera plans to return for the next Gathering of the Nations Pow Wow. “I’ve been asked to take a bigger role. It’s going to be great.”



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