Stanford Powwow

Stanford Powwow

The 39th Annual Stanford Powwow is happening this weekend, Friday May 7 through Sunday May 9, 2010 (Mother’s Day!) in the Eucalyptus Grove at Stanford University, near the Stadium. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never been, but I’m making plans finally to go this year. It’s billed as the largest student-run Powwow in the nation. The focus is Native American drumming and dance competitions, but I expect also to be dazzled by an array of arts, crafts, cultural displays, and food vendors. I’m really excited to try frybread. I don’t know what it will taste like but really with a name like that, you can’t go wrong.

Timm WilliamsThere are interesting intersections between Stanford University and local Native American history. Thousands of years before the Spanish arrived, the Muwekma Ohlone people occupied the entire Bay Area in an interwoven complex of tribal clusters. They left behind archeological remains and the vast Stanford land alone holds more than sixty excavated sites. Young Leland Stanford, Jr. used to enjoy collecting arrowheads and mortars and pestles from the property. In the 1930s the students adopted the Indian as the athletic teams’ mascot. In 1946 the “Mad Indian” logo was created, featuring an Indian caricature with a big nose. In 1952 Timm Williams (pictured), member of the Yurok Tribe (um…best tribe name ever), began appearing at sporting events as Prince Lightfoot in full Native regalia, and continued his appearances for nineteen years. In 1970 during the midst of the Indian occupation of Alcatraz, newly organized Native American students and staff petitioned University President Richard Lyman to put an end to the mascot appearances, feeling they were a mockery of Native American religion. Discussions, negotiations, and further petitions over the next few years led to the abolition of all uses of the Indian symbol and mascot, the reasoning being that they were at best insensitive and unworthy, and at worst offensive and racist. This issue continues to be controversial among alumni of the era who cherished the old mascot without meaning to give offense, and defended Williams’ sincerity.

This blog is another reason I want to go to the Powwow this year. Obviously it promises to be a spectacular El Camino event. More than that though, I hope it will help me on the difficult path of reconciling nostalgia over a romantic notion of California’s mission days with the painful reality of the suffering and injustice the Spanish and later the Americans brought to the Native inhabitants. I can look at California today and easily see the Spanish, Mexican, and Yankee influences. This weekend I want to start opening my eyes to see the Native spirit, the sublime and the profane, that dwelled in this land before the others came, and to learn to recognize how it manifests today.

No Faire?

This is the Powwow’s 39th year. This should also be the Stanford Spring Faire’s 40th year, but I can’t find any evidence that it’s happening this year or happened last year. For as long as I can remember the Powwow and Spring Faire have happened together, every year during Mother’s Day weekend. The Faire is an arts, crafts, and entertainment festival in White Plaza benefiting The Bridge, Stanford’s peer counseling service. I’ve been to the Faire many times, and every time I promise myself I’ll go to the Powwow next year. Well I’m finally going to the Powwow and go figure…no Faire. I haven’t confirmed if it’s on or off so if you know something about the Stanford Faire, tell me.

39th Annual Stanford Powwow
Mother’s Day Weekend
May 7-9, 2010
Stanford University Campus Eucalyptus Grove

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