It's the 49th annual Puvungna Pow Wow at Cal State Long Beach this weekend.
The event will feature a number of celebrations honoring American Indian heritage, paying special homage to the tribal traditions and welcoming Long Beachers to join in the festivities. Additionally, the weekend also marks a special anniversary for LBSU.
"It's the 50th anniversary of the American Indian Studies (AIS) program at the university," Craig Stone, professor and AIS program director, said. "We have the oldest American Indian Studies program in the CSU, so that's something special."
The Pow Wow, as much as it is about the celebration of cultures, is about teaching and learning about the tribes that occupied Southern California long before California was a part of the United States, he added.
Stone said he’s attended 48 of the events and the longevity of LBSU's Pow Wow is unique. The free event is open for anyone and has drawn about 6,000 attendees, he said. Additionally, it’s one of the largest spring Pow Wows in Southern California.
“It’s all about celebrating life and bringing people together and acknowledging the diversity of native people," he said. "It's a shared vision of just being connected around that drum with the song."
Around 50 arts, crafts and food vendors will be onsite, he said. Plenty of food will be available with native dishes like mutton and beef stew, Navajo tacos, fry bread and Indian burgers.
At 10 a.m. on Saturday, the two-day event will kick off with the Paniktum Bird Singers. The group will sing a traditional tune with gourds in a style only found in Southern California and Sedona, Ariz.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., gourd dancers will take the stage. But one of Stone's favorite weekend moments is the couple's dance, he said.
"I really like the couple's dance because anyone can get up and participate with their date or their wife or partner," he said. "There are even some couples that have been at our dance the last 49 years."
It's called the Oklahoma Two Step and it happens Saturday night. Willing participants will be called onstage to learn a few dance moves and dance the night away.
Additionally, the first 500 or so guests will receive a poster featuring the AIS logo, with a graduation cap decorated with a tassel and feather, a design that Stone said he helped design for the program back in 1978.
“It's a significant piece of artwork because when natives and First Nation students graduate, people will wear that beaded mortarboard on their graduation day with their traditional tribal medallia," he said. "And up until last year, when an assembly bill (1248) was signed, that wasn't allowed at some school districts, so we wanted to have something that celebrates that."
The 49th annual Puvungna Pow Wow at Cal State Long Beach is taking place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, March 9, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 10.
Parking is free in designated lots on campus. Spectators also are encouraged to bring folding chairs to more comfortably enjoy the scheduled events.
For more information, or to view the full schedule of events, go to web.csulb.edu/divisions/students/sld/american_indian_services/pow_wow.
Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.