Community Powwow Celebrates Native American Traditions

Community members and students converged March 30 at a powwow on Walker Beach that was sponsored by the Draper Center for Community Partnerships. The event, which lasted from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., featured food stands, craft tables, drum circles, traditional Native American dance performances, and an Easter egg hunt for the children in attendance, among other activities.

“We really want to educate the Claremont Colleges that this is Indian country, and people don’t know that unless they’re dressed like it,” said Scott Scoggins, community scholar in residence at the Draper Center. “This is something that has been long overdue.”

The Draper Center worked with the Pomona administration, First Women 1st Tuesday/Wednesday Around the Fire, St. Michael’s Ministries, and the Indigenous Student Alliance (ISA) to sponsor the event.

“It wasn’t just us; it was people from the local tribal communities who wanted to do this,” ISA member Carmen Velazquez PZ ’13 said.

The root of the idea came when Scoggins, who also serves as the Native American Program Coordinator at Pitzer College, was approached by Tongva elder Julia Bogany, who hosts a powwow each year, about the possibility of bringing her celebration of Native American culture to Pomona’s campus in an attempt to connect students at the 5Cs to local tribes.

“Mostly [the purpose of the event] was a way to promote awareness about indigenous peoples and indigenous ways because it’s something that, on the surface level, draws people in because of the music and the colors and all of the people,” ISA President Mariah Tso SC ’14 said. “But also, it was to have an experience that is contemporary and isn’t something that’s strictly in the past.”

The event attracted not only students from the 5Cs but also members of local tribes and community members of all ages.

Based on the success of this year’s powwow, Scoggins, Tso, and other members of ISA expressed interest in making the powwow an annual tradition at Pomona.

“This is our first powwow, but hopefully we plan to have a two-day powwow next year,” ISA member Elizabeth Shulterbrandt SC ’12 said.

The powwow is part of an initiative to bring more awareness of Native Americans and the issues they face to Pomona and the other 5Cs.

“President Oxtoby has made a commitment to support local Native American tribes and local American Indian communities to come on campus, to feel welcomed here at the campus. Before this, there really were no activities for Native Americans,” Scoggins said.

This was the first powwow to be hosted on Pomona’s campus, although the college has hosted Native American-themed events before. The college hosted a Native American opening ceremony this September to celebrate the beginning of Pomona’s 125th year of classes. This event also brought in members of local Native American tribes to Pomona’s campus.

“This is the first time ever that there’s been a powwow here at the 5Cs, even though a lot of other universities also have powwows: UCLA does, so does [California State University] San Bernardino, and several others,” Tso said. “It’s just a really momentous occasion that we have here.”

Overall, members of the ISA who attended the event were pleased with the turnout at last Saturday’s festivities.

“Everyone that I’ve talked to seems really happy to be here and really pleased with how today has turned out,” Velazquez said.

Scoggins echoed the enthusiasm of the ISA members about the powwow’s success.

“I’m ecstatic at the participation and the turnout of everybody. The vendors are happy, the dancers are happy, the drummers are happy, I’m happy,” he said. “I see smiles everywhere, I see kids running around. This is really, truly a community event.”