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A celebration of past and present

Published March 14, 2017

For most of the year, the Central Quad is a place where students study, paint or simply hang out. For one weekend, though, the grassy lawn is sacred ground, blessed by members of the Native Indian tribes on hand for the 47th annual CSU Puvungna Pow Wow.

Cal State Long Beach once again was transformed this past weekend into a celebration of Native Indian heritage with ceremonial drums, dances, vibrant regalia, traditional foods and various cultural art items for sale. The two-day event, on the sacred site of the ancient Gabrielino/Tongva Village of Puvungna, was something of a homecoming for members of local tribes.

The social and cultural celebration highlights the university’s strong Native Indian presence in Long Beach and surrounding areas.

“This is a family reunion for many of these people,” said Craig Stone, adding that it is an opportunity for generations to come together and celebrate their heritage.

The day began with the blessing of the ground to sanctify the area.

After gourd dancing, a dozen or more dancers, led by head dancer David Patterson (Sac & Fox/Kickapoo), made the grand entrance. The dancers, dressed in feathers and bells, moved to the pulsating beat of drums and singing. Stone said the songs, some of which were written hundreds of years ago, are “a blessing to push away any negativity.”

The celebration continued with women dancers, who were led by Dr. Lita Matthews (Santa Clara Pueblo). Many of the dances were dedicated to various groups, including students, veterans and mothers.

Emcee Bobby Whitebird (Cheyenne) told the crowd of roughly 1,000, “This is not a show. This is not a performance. You are viewing the ways of our people and their responsibility of this life.”

The ceremonies were paused briefly to honor the newest member of the American Indian community, as a baby was celebrated with cash gifts. The event concluded each day with a dance out and retiring of colors.

The annual event was presented by CSULB’s American Indians Studies Program, American Indian Student Council, American Indian Student Services and Associated Students Inc. and Student Affairs.

 

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