Tag Archives: Powwows

When Non Native Participation in Powwows Goes Terribly Wrong

by Guest Contributor Adrienne K., originally published at Native Appropriations

Powwow girls

Let’s set the scene: Friday afternoon, Stanford powwow–one of the largest powwow’s on the West Coast. Three Native powwow committee members and a friend are checking in on the vendor booths, making sure things are ready to go, and they come across the group pictured above. 6 non-Native girls, decked out in warpaint, feathers, fringe, and moccassins–playing Indian at its worst. I’ll let my friend Leon tell the whole story:

While we were walking around Powwow on Friday, checkin out the vendors, we saw this pack of little white girls come running in from the street. Now, needless to say, we were shocked at the sight. We pretty much all just stopped in our tracks, and were speechless for a minute, as we looked on in sheer disbelief. After going through a few (angry) options in our heads about what to do, we figured we should have a little fun with it first (especially since there was this crew of little like six year old Native girls who were already making fun of them)…anyways, me and Lisa devised a plan to get this picture of them for you and your blog. So Lisa approached the girls and said “Excuse me girls…” (silence fell upon the land)…”could we get a picture of you for our newsletter?” “Of course!!!” the girls replied with excitement…

So girls, here’s your “newsletter” debut.
After Leon and crew took the picture, the powwow security team talked to them and brought them over to the director of the Stanford Native Center for some education on the issue, so (hopefully) they at least walked away from the experience with a new understanding of their actions. If they didn’t, here, again, is my anti-headdress manifesto.

I was telling my mom about the incident, and she said, “Honey, you can’t be too hard on them. Clearly they just didn’t know any better.” The thing is, they should have known better.

These girls are students at Palo Alto High School. Definitely one of the best high schools in the area, if not the state. It is a high school that turns out tops students who go on to top colleges, and enrolls  children of professors, stanford employees, and other well educated silicon valley execs. To top it off, the school is literally across the street from Stanford. Across the street from a school that hosts the largest student run powwow in the nation for 39 years running, that is home to nearly 300 Native students, that has one of the strongest college Native communities in California.

I would like to think that the combination of those factors would equate some level of understanding, that a high school of their caliber would incorporate some type of curriculum on Native history, or at least a basic level of cultural sensitivity. Clearly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Continue reading