My Stanford PowWow Experience

I always love the feeling that overcomes me as I walk up to a Powwow from my parked car. The first thing I notice, after shutting the door and looking around, are all the people around me. Everyone is gathering and arranging their personal belongings, slinging cameras around their necks, handing toddlers their cups of juice, zipping up sweaters or jackets, and then the sound of the drums hits our ears. It's as if the vibrations of the drums travel through the dirt of the earth and up my legs to cover my entire body in chills. It's a consuming moment, and the beat of the drums seems to pull us all in closer to the arena. Deep within my bones I am stirred by the prayer of the drum, and by the voices of those singing. It's a humbling experience to be drawn closer and closer to this gathering of relations to partake in an ancient celebration of culture and prayer. Whether a dancer is there solely to unite in his/her soul with the creator, or to place 1st in the competition, we are all drawn to the arena. The last Powwow I was able to attend was on Mother’s Day in 2014 at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. The powwow was hosted amidst a grove of eucalyptus trees, and the smell was fierce as hundreds of shoes and moccasins stirred the fallen leaves with their walking. Booths were set up in temporary streets and avenues for walking. Kitchens were built with propane stoves as elderly women cooked and flipped their own recipes of fry breads. Sausages, Indian Tacos, fry breads of all kinds were available to the attendees. I barely took a bite of my own taco before the MC announced the beginning of the Grand Entry. I was surrounded by fellow natives, something I am not used to as a California-born Native.

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Feathers and beads in bright and traditional colors swirled around me. I watched as a native man in all his regalia for Fancy Feather walked by. He was focused, eyes on the arena, and I was impressed with how massive he seemed in his regalia. I met a group of young women in Jingle Dresses and photographed them as they giggled to each other.

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Their energy was rising as they prepared for Grand Entry. My Grandfather, mother and I walked around to stand near the drum circle. I could feel the drum in my chest as I stood by the circle. I wanted to move, I wanted to join. It was a unique feeling of belonging that was extremely comforting to me. I walked the aisles of booths, bought a few shirts from my favorite native vendor OXDX Clothing, and watched my children explore among the feet of fellow powwowers. It's an experience I strive to attend and experience every year. There will be many powwows in my future, and in my children’s future. It's a cultural experience every Native should witness at least once in his/her life, though I guarantee if you go once it will not be your last.


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