Pow-wow celebrates American Indian heritage

Daily Sundial

Despite heavy rain on Saturday, several American Indian tribes gathered at the East Music Lawn for the celebration of the first pow-wow held at CSUN since 1998.

Pow-wow is a time for American Indian tribes to celebrate old customs and a way to preserve their rich heritage. At the gathering, different tribes from across the United States come to visit, dance, and renew their religious spirituality.

According to Pamela Villasenor, a member of the Tataviam people and the American Indian Student Association on campus, pow-wows were started at CSUN in the 1970s by the association. This was the first pow-wow held at CSUN since they were stopped in 1998 due to a lack of support.

Pow-wows can vary in length from a single session lasting five to six hours, to one that lasts three days. On some special occasions they can last up to a week.

“This is an opportunity to be among your people (and) exchange information,” said Saginaw Grant, a member of Sac and Fox. “It’s a spiritual get together where we pray and give thanks for the way of life we have.”

American Indian tribes from two American continents attended the pow-wow, Grant said.

“There are tribes from Mexico, and Canada,” Grant said. “The largest Indian population is in the United States.”

This year’s pow-wow theme was “Peace and Dignity: Uniting the Eagle and the Condor.”

“The eagle and the condor are a symbol of unity, brotherhood, spirituality, and a sign of equality,” said Jorge Boche, an Aztec dancer. “Our people need guidance, because united we stand. But as long as we are divided as nations, our people will continue to suffer.”

Boche said the eagle and the condor are sacred birds that represent their indigenous lands: in this case, North and South America.

Although American Indian tribes differ form each other in terms of spiritual rituals and ways of life, they share a mutual sense of community.

“Each nation has its own dance,” Grant said. “But it’s an inter-tribal event because we share the dances with each other.”

Among the dancers present were Danza Mexica Cuauht?moc de San Fernando.

“This is a way to keep close contact with your ancestors (and) grandparents, because they danced the same songs and played the same beating of the drums,” Grant said.

According to Boche, who is known in the dance group as Millactizin, the dance group was established in the 1990s in the San Fernando Valley as a small chapter belonging to a larger dance group.

“This (group) is open to everyone,” Boche said. “The only requirement is that whoever is interested must share our same way of life.”

AISA hopes to continue celebrating the pow-wows annually.

“Pow-wow’s are a way of religion and customs to continue,” Villasenor said. “It is very important for events like this to happen.”