Once a year, decedents of the Tongva people are invited to come together for a homecoming of sorts to relish in the celebration of culture through song, dance and quality time.
Donned in traditional garb, people from all over the country migrated to the Cal State Long Beach central quad to dance to the beat of drums and celebrate the 48th Annual Pow Wow.
Various organizations of the campus came together once again to host the American Indigenous celebration. The groups involved in the event were the American Indian Studies Program, American Indian Student Council, Division of Student Affairs, Student Life and Development and Associated Students, Inc. The event, which was weekend-long, offered a reunion to the Tongva and a chance to commemorate American Indian culture.
The Pow Wow started off with an hour of gourd dancing, which is performed by men wearing indigenous traditional dress from the Golden State Gourd Society. The purpose of this dance is to pay respect to warriors and veterans.
The largest of its kind, the event displayed various American Indian styles of dances, food and stories from people across many different age groups.
The event offered a coming together that spans across generations for those who make the journey to attend. Grandparents bring their families and children learn of their culture from the dances, songs and stories presented throughout the weekend.
Victoria Aguilera, a member of the Tongva tribe in the San Gabriel region and an alumnus from the university, emphasized the importance of the event to younger generations of indigenous people.
“It’s really important for us elders to be able to see what we’ve been working for — planting the seeds all these generations that are still continuing,” Aguilera said. “I make sure my grandchildren come by and learn to not only see the dances, the music and the language, but to also partake in the community… There’s people here that they may see once a year but they know this is their community.”
Aguilera also spoke of the importance for students attending the school to know about the grounds on which the campus is built. The school lies on Tongva land, which is part of the reason why Pow Wow is hosted here and why many people feel a close connection to the campus, many of which are students.
“This is my third time coming to this event since I’ve been at Long Beach State and as someone who is mixed with the Yuki tribe, it is important for me to attend events like this,” said Cooper Wilson, a junior kinesiology major. “This year, I was able to get a group of friends to go with me and that really meant a lot.”
There were over 25 different vendors displaying and selling various pieces of jewelry, clothing, food and blankets. Many of the vendors were ran by entire families, taking pride in the fact that they were able to sell their handmade art and in turn pass down their traditions to members of their tribe and community.
But no item was more popular than the dream catchers, according to vendor seller Miguel Sipechez.
“For the second year in a row, dream catchers were sold the most out of all of my products. I sold out of all of them the first day,” Sipechez said. “They are a symbol and a reminder of how we should live our lives every day. Not only does it hold our goals and things that we are striving towards, but it also holds our fears and challenges as well.”
Food vendors sold American Indian style tacos, hamburgers, fry bread and traditional sweets for people. The tacos consist of ground beef, chopped lettuce, tomatoes and cheese on top of a thick maize known as flaky bread.
“I was in the library studying and I was tired of reading textbooks so I came out here to check out the event,” said Sydney Hatton, a senior psychology major. “I love learning about different cultures and gaining knowledge, plus the food is amazing. I came here last year and bought my first pieces of jewelry so I had to come back and get some more. I love how everyone is so welcoming and the dancers are so talented. It’s really a beautiful event.”