By Ashley Schofield
The aroma of food and music filled University Park over the
weekend with American Indian in the Pow Wow festivities. The 8th
annual event at Cal Poly brought new additions to educate the
community about the importance of gathering and family, the
foundations of the ceremonies.
The events lasted all day and went well into the night on
Saturday, closing at 9 p.m. The Pow Wow hosted a variety of
entertainment at no cost to the public.
The Bronco Student Union area was transformed into a world of
tradition and exotic goods foreign to the usual Cal Poly sightings.
The event’s set up was composed of vendors’ colorful canopies, a
large teepee and a sacred ceremonious circle.
The warm weather completed the incentive to attend the event,
which hosted features such as tribal dancing, live music, American
Indian food and storytelling. Vendors were informative about the
culture, and sold Native remembrances; some favorites available
were jewelry, clothing, artwork, wooden instruments, dream catchers
and countless other affordable keepsakes.
“This year a lot of people are showing up,” said Native American
Center President and Pow Wow Director Sandra Diaz, a third-year
zoology student. “Pow Wow is a great way to learn cultural
traditions that people have never heard of; many have never really
experienced what the culture is like, especially modernly.”
Pow Wow is a mix of traditional culture with the contemporary
generation that has transformed the culture to a modern time. The
integration was obvious through the vast age groups at the
The elders wore conservative attire and participated in the more
traditional dances. Teenagers dressed in arrays of vibrant colors
in more recent fashions and participated in the young dances.
Although the age barrier was great, the American Indians
addressed the issue to change. The culture evolves over time to
keep up with society and the interest of the young who will carry
out the tradition. Events like Pow Wow foster the founding ideals
of family and the importance of coming together as a community.
Annual traditions like this insure that the culture’s primary
values are being lived out.
“Pow Wow is a sacred event that reminds us of family and life,
keeping the traditions alive and respecting the sacred, teaching us
the history of our past,” said dancer Daniel Graywolf Medina, who
also practices holistic healing and was a history professor at Cal
Poly. “My purpose is to live the way my grandfather taught me, and
to pass that on to the young.”
The dancers represent warriors who are all veterans reenacting
the passion of fighting for their culture. Fallen friends are
honored through these dances, recalling loved ones who lived out
the American Indian tradition.
“Pow Wow comes from the East tribal language to celebrate good
harvest gathering, family and friends. In winter, many people
traveled to different places, and in spring, we would come together
to rejoice those who had made it,” said Medina.
Compatible with the season of Thanksgiving, Pow Wow relates to
being thankful for all that people have. The celebration brought
not only those of all ages locally, but from afar too.
Roberto Mendez and Andres Gonzalez, two students studying abroad
for a year from Mexico, have an indigenous heritage and work with
indigenous children back at home. Both were very excited to see
that Cal Poly was hosting such an event, and were having fun
identifying with their roots.
Other students who had no roots in the American Indian culture
flocked to the event and did not know what to expect.
“I have no idea what is going on, but I am interested in the
ceremony and I am trying to figure out what this all means,” said
third-year transfer student, Cheryl Teng, on the dancing and smoke
rituals being performed in the sacred circle.
Vicki Martinez, a third-year sociology student, got involved by
volunteering in the event.
“It’s neat to experience all of this, and shocking to learn
about the struggles that this culture has overcome,” she said.
“You learn about the secret, hidden aspects of a culture from
attending these affairs, and realize that they are just ordinary
people who are wrongly stereotyped,” said student volunteer, Joel
Enciso, a senior psychology student.
Pow Wow proved to be an eye opening experience for those foreign
to the culture, and a successful weekend of celebration dedicated
to love, family and life for the Native Americans.
Ashley Schofield can be reached by e-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (909) 869-3744.
Pow Wow Opens Eyes to Culture
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