American Indian organizations at CSUN held their 24th annual pow-wow in honor of improving their strength and spirit for future participants during the Thanksgiving weekend at CSUN.
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“A pow-wow provides an opportunity for American Indians and people from all backgrounds to learn a little more about each other and to have a good time together,” AIS coordinator Karren Baird-Olson stated in a press release.
Lidia “Xochitl” Rivas, AISA president and event coordinator, said the organization expected about 15 to 20 different vendors to participate in this year’s powwow and about 300 to 400 people to visit the event.
Several tribes, including the Apache, Din’eacute; (Navajo), Yaqui, Purepecha, Kickapoo, Cauhilla, Serrano, and Sac and Fox, were present at the powwow. Some traveled from as far as Canada and New Mexico.
To open the pow-wow, a drum was placed in the middle of the arena to let participants know the gourd dance was about to commence. The dance consists of a group of five to six people banging a large drum in the middle of the arena. Gourd dancers dance in place, keeping beat with the drum and shaking a rattle made out of a gourd, a tin, or silver cylinder filled with beads. The drums beat loud enough so that they echoed off the adjacent buildings.
Vendor tents and booths were placed in an outer circle around the performance arena. Various smaller tents belonging to performers and dancers comprised a smaller arena.
Each vendor displayed handcrafted silver jewelry, dream catchers, beaded clothing and various other items. An arts and crafts area was set up for children to make personal designs.
There was also a booth where people could have their names or wishes engraved on single grains of rice.
A separate booth was set up by AISA where they sold raffle tickets for $3. The first place prize was an “awakening blanket.” Second place was a handmade wool blanket, and third place was a handmade shawl with the colors and symbol of AISA.
One of the busiest tents was the food tent. Fry bread, a flat dough that’s deep-fried in oil, shortening, or lard, was one of the more popular items on the menu.
As people from the general public walked to each tent, they were greeted with stories about the vendors’ heritage and what tribe they were from.
One vendor, who declined to provide a name, talked about his necklace with special beads and a small wooden bear symbolizing his Navajo tribe. While he stood over the handmade turquoise necklaces and earrings, he described how the beads on his necklace helped to keep his troubling Vietnam experiences at bay.
“These beads keep those flashbacks from coming back,” he said.
He continued on with how he swept minefields, looking for mines by using the sharp end of his switchblade knife.
Scott Anderson, a CSUN history professor and volunteer, said that because of “students becoming more active in the (AISA),” the powwow at CSUN was revived about three years ago.
“Students became more involved and interested in the organization,” Anderson said.
The pow-wow caught the attention of the local media. Camera crews from KTLA and Channel 7 News filmed the day’s event.
To attract attention from drivers on Nordhoff Street, two large tipis sat on the music lawn where the event occured.The public was invited to go inside and experience the American Indian structures.
Rivas said that it took about a year to prepare for this weekend’s pow-wow and expects that it’ll take a while to prepare for next year’s gathering.