Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Gatherings of Diversity, Stanford Powwow and Lu´au
These past two weeks on The Farm strange sounds have been reverberating through the eucalyptus, causing students and residents alike to peer in curious wonder at the eclectically dressed dancers as they speed by on their way to another event of their whooshing modern lives.
Although these events are typically seen as a gathering of one culture to celebrate its heritage, this common view is far from the truth. Tribes from across the country, with more variation in language and culture than all of Europe, meet to celebrate their one common bond: to have survived attempted extermination and come out with culture and identity intact. Of course, the cultures and traditions have changed through time to include many modern alterations. There are competitions for money, raffles, costumes designed from modern materials, and t-shirt and baseball cap vendors. While I was there, some friends commented that they were slightly disappointed that the Powwow didn't seem as "authentic" as they would have hoped. This is an interesting paradox in that, although they had never been to a Powwow before they presumed to know what an authentic Powwow entailed. They seem to forget that this culture has been living and changing to encompass new influences and modern traditions. Fry bread is an example of a traditional food that has spread throughout Native culture. It started when the federal government forced tribes into prison camps and gave them rations of flour, lard, salt, sugar and oil as food. They created this bread to try to make these ingredients edible. This is not what the BIA would define as an intact preserved culture because of the white influence, but this expectation that tribes would be able to preserve a pure and uninfluenced culture is just not logical. "Authentic" Powwow is a contradiction, because Powwows have evolved from traditional gatherings into a convention or fair to celebrate the continued existence of some semblance of a Native existence.