Photo by Lee Choo

American Indian dancers in a wide array of colorful clothing celebrate native culture at the CSUN 31st annual Powwow in 2014.

California State University, Northridge will celebrate its 32nd annual Powwow on Saturday, Nov. 28, on the Chicano/a Studies Lawn, located off of Plummer Street and Reseda Avenue in Northridge.

Indigenous singers, drummers and dancers will gather for a grand entry scheduled to take place at 12:30 p.m. The grand entry will feature dancers entering an arena in a formal procession.

The national anthem and traditional American Indian songs will be performed to honor the flag and veterans. A variety of traditional dances will continue throughout the day, including some that will invite and encourage audience participation.

American Indian Studies program director Brian Burkhart said modern-day powwows carry traditions from hundreds of years of indigenous history.

“Powwows are really old. There is a dual element in their history,” he said. “They gained general popularity in the late 1800s when Wild West shows popped up and the United States became fascinated by ‘savage Indians.’ Native Americans got jobs putting on a show for the public while practicing and secretly carrying out their traditions that were oppressed by anti-indigenous laws.”

CSUN’s Powwow holds true to this dual history, but with a more community-based approach, Burkhart said.

“[A powwow] is a general [intertribal] celebration and show. That context, where you are not afraid of going to jail for practicing your traditions, of sharing and doing these dances in a quasi-secular and traditional way, is what the modern powwow is about.”

The event, sponsored by CSUN’s American Indian Student Association and American Indian Studies Program, is free and open to the public. Parking is available for $6 on the campus located at 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge.

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