As the sounds of drums and jingles filled the upper campus quad at Long Beach State, many people gathered for the long-anticipated 50th annual Pow Wow, making its return at Long Beach State following a three-year hiatus.
The two-day event kicked off on Saturday, March 11 to Sunday, March 12, and was presented by the American Indian Studies Program, American Indian Student Council, Division of Student Affairs, Student Life and Development and Associated Students, Inc.
Craig Stone, director of the American Indian Studies program, was the Head Man dancer of the event.
The event included traditional dancing, contests among dancers, vendors selling items such as Native clothing and jewelry, food, such as frybread, and even featured booths with organizations in support of the Pow Wow and resources for Native American people.
Gourd dancing was one of the featured dances. Gourd dancing is a warrior dance that was taught by a red wolf and is affiliated with the Kiowa people to honor their battles.
Mia Murillo of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes was feeling grateful to be able to participate in the Pow Wow, dancing in the women’s fancy category.
“It is really amazing to have all of us together, that is what Pow Wows are for, it is to bring other tribes together and have a good time and welcome different styles and different tribes, it is a really beautiful thing,” said Murillo.
Jacob Pratt of the Dakota and Ojibway tribes was participating in this Pow Wow for the second time. Pratt is a men’s traditional dancer, which he explained is a warrior dance that tells the story of a warrior or a hunter.
“Every single song we have, every single dance, has its own significance and story, it takes decades and decades for you to learn it all,” said Pratt. “A lot of the people you see dancing are experts in their culture and their tradition, while all the kids are actively learning all of it.”
Many misconceptions and myths lay behind Native American culture, making events such as the Pow Wow especially vital as people continue to learn about Native culture and debunk myths surrounding Native people.
Taylor Begay, of Navajo descent, explained the myth that there are not many Native people and that there are, in fact, many tribes across the country that represent their tribes and land.
“We are here, we are still here, and we are going to keep being here,” she said.
The Pow Wow is not just a celebration of Native culture by Native people. It is also a way for people who are not Native to appreciate and learn about Native culture as well as offering an opportunity for those who are Native to connect or reconnect with their culture and traditions.
Third-year music major Cole Bacani explained that he was brought to the Pow Wow because of a class he is taking that talks about the musical value behind Native American songs and wanted to see it in person.
“It is one thing to learn about it through reading a book or hearing a lecture, but it is so much cooler to actually see it in person,” said Bacani.
One attendee, Tatiana Vargas, of Apache descent, learned about the Pow Wow through her aunt and learned about the Native roots that she has through her as well.
“I am trying to connect to my roots and trying to learn more about it,” Vargas said. “It’s giving me a better understanding of what it means to be Native, its really nice to be part of a community that is so welcoming.”