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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Traditions remembered, celebrated Traditions remembered, celebrated (May 08, 2002)

Thirty-first Stanford Powwow this weekend

by Lulu Wijaya

"We Dance With Peace In Our Hearts, Fire In Our Eyes and Rage In Our Feet!" So goes the theme of the 31st Annual Stanford Powwow, which will take place on May 10-12 in the Eucalyptus Grove at Galvez and Campus Drive.

The theme speaks of the survival of Native-American traditions, of which song and dance form an integral part, despite past pressures to assimilate into mainstream culture and frequent neglect in history textbooks, according to Denni Woodward, assistant director of the American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Program.

The Powwow will kick off on Friday, May 10 at 7 p.m. with the first Grand Entry of dancers, a "spectacular" highlight of the event with the dancers clad in their traditional outfits.

The ninth Annual Stanford Powwow 5K Race and 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk will take place on Saturday, May 11 at 8.30 a.m. Aside from the "unique Indian awards" and medallions that winners will receive, this event also celebrates the culture's long tradition of running. In the past, tribes would communicate with each other by sending runners.

Woodward also thinks running and dancing are a good combination: "Dancers are athletes as well . . . (they're both) contests of strength and stamina."

This year's Powwow also commemorates the 30th anniversary of the removal of the Stanford Indian from the university's mascot, a symbol deemed "offensive and demeaning" by Native-American students back then. Richard W. Lyman, Stanford president from 1970-1980 who enforced the decision in 1972, has been invited to the event.

Besides competitive dancing and drumming -- with titles and prize money at stake -- approximately 100 arts-and-crafts, souvenir, information and food booths will also open throughout the three-day event. According to Woodward, about 75 percent of participants are non-locals who have been traveling from one Powwow to another across the country. There will also be a reception for Native-American alumni.

In conjunction with the Powwow, Stanford's Cantor Arts Center will premiere the nationally touring exhibition of "Uncommon Legacies: Native American Art from the Peabody Essex Museum" on May 8. The exhibition will run through Aug. 11.

To raise funds for the approximately $100,000 cost of the Powwow, members of the Stanford American Indian Organization have been selling T-shirts and advertising space in the program, among others. The student body also contributed $10,000.

An attendance of more than 30,000 is expected, making the Stanford Powwow the largest student-run powwow in the United States and one of the largest such events on the West Coast.

The impact the Powwow has brought to the Stanford campus can be seen from the size of Native-American organizations: in 1970-1971, Stanford American Indian Organization was the only Native-American club on campus. Now there are around 15-20 different groups.

Interestingly, Woodward said the Powwow not only increases the visibility of Native Americans on campus; it has also increased the visibility of Stanford among Native Americans, many of whom come to know the school after having heard of the event.

Woodward believes the success of Stanford's Powwow can be partly attributed to "the stability of the student organization," as opposed to many other powwows that are often organized by individuals or groups, who may experience frequent changes.

"We have a renewable resource of students," she said. "There are more and more energetic students every year, and the stability gives us a sense of history . . . It's a very rare opportunity for people to experience a culture that they otherwise wouldn't have."

E-mail Lulu Wijaya at


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