Los Angeles has the highest American Indian population in the United States, and on March 20, people representing various tribes will attend CSUN’s 26th Annual Powwow.
American Indian Studies (AIS) Coordinator Scott D. Andrews said the main purposes of the Powwow are to be social, participate in American Indian culture and learn about the many different American Indian tribes.
“You’ll get people from 20-30 different tribes at a powwow with their own style of dance, music and language,” Andrews said. “A powwow is a multicultural event.”
The event, which lasts from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., is free and all-ages, and will feature traditional dancing, speakers and a raffle and specials, where someone is honored. Andrews said there will be a lot of frybread and fried dough covered in honey and powdered sugar.
“We were given the reputation of being the Thanksgiving powwow,” Andrews said.
This is because the AIS Program normally holds the powwow in November, but due to the recent budget cuts, Andrews said, it had to be postponed until March.
Dr. Karren Baird-Olson, the CSUN AIS professor who was injured during the recent budget cut protests, will be attending the powwow, Andrews said, and she will most likely be honored during the specials ceremony.
“She is doing well,” Andrews said. “We’ll be happy to see her.”
The AIS program held the first CSUN powwow in the 1970’s, Andrews said, and although this is the 26th year, there have been years where there was no powwow.
Andrews also added that powwows are actually a product of the 20th century, and they are an intertribal celebration.
“It’s a chance to get together, have fun, and participate in cultures that have been around for thousands of years,” Andrews said.
American Indian Studies Association (AISA) Chair Jazmin Navarro, 23, Chicano/a studies said her main goals for the event are to increase visibility and awareness of her organization, and to help preserve American Indian Culture.
“I am mainly hoping to see more students, because it is a student run and student geared event,” said Navarro.
AISA has been an active organization on campus since the 1970’s, Navarro said, and they work closely with local tribes.
“CSUN is constructed on Native American territory,” Navarro said.
Typically, about 1,000 people come to the CSUN powwow throughout the day, Navarro said, and a lot of community members and powwow goers come from all over Los Angeles for the event.
Former AISA President Tim Benfield designed this year’s posters, flyers and pamphlets for the event. Benfield said his inspiration for the design was the Tawa Kachina doll, which represents the sun and is closely tied to Pueblo tribes.
“Volunteering at the event, most of my efforts have been in previous years for reestablishing the powwow here on campus,” Benfield said.
The inspiration to learn more about the tribes in the San Fernando Valley led Benfield, who has no American Indian heritage, to join AISA.
“For this campus, there has been a long history of powwows that go back to 1976,” Benfield said. “What I like is it is maintaining the continuity of the tradition on campus.”
Benfield added that the event’s objectives are to maintain this long-standing campus event, bring greater awareness to the AIS program and maintain contacts with the community.