In a celebration of color, sound and culture, William S. Hart Park held the 25th annual Hart of the West Native American Pow wow and Craft Fair on Saturday and Sunday.
Over the course of the weekend, hundreds of guests visited vendors selling clothes, hats, jewelry and sacred items like dreamcatchers and medicine wheels, as well as sit and watch dancers from across North America reflect their cultural identity and join with other native people.
“To us, us Native Americans, this is an event for us to share and recognize our tribes and our culture,” said arena director Victor Chavez, from the Navajo nation. “Back in the day, I want to say in the 50s or so, we weren’t allowed to do this, we had to be hidden away. And today, we’re open to be allowed to do this.”
The event’s emcee, Bobby Whitebird, welcomed dancers into a wide circle surrounded by tents and canvases for attendants and other dancers with their families. This included Danza Azteca Xochipilli, directed by Adolfo Arteaga, who performed traditional Aztec dances passed down by his grandparents. To Arteaga, dancing is equivalent to praying.
“We are native for this land,” he said. “We are contributing our energy to our traditions.”
Not only does the pow wow give dancers and vendors a chance to meet or reconnect with other native people from across the continent, but it’s also a way to learn from each other, he said.
Chavez noted that he has attended most of the 35 different major pow wows taking place across the United States, chosen by tribal elders and given him the chance to learn and help people that participate.
One of the many dancers, Jimmy Tallcan, held his own particular role.
“Well, I’m just your regular dancer,” he said. “I dance the grass style, and my purpose is to flatten out the grass to pretty much bless it in a way before a ceremony can take place, the ceremony being the pow wow. I’m here to dance to the best of my ability and heal everybody.”
From the Mescalero Apache nation and an Oxnard resident, Tallcan was joined by his wife, daughter and in-laws for his first Hart of the West pow wow. There was no pressure to dance based on prize money, he said, making the sole purpose of dancing and interacting with other dancers feel more real.
“It’s not commercialized, so to speak,” Tallcan said.
Admission for the event is free and continues Sunday. ATM machines are available, along with food stations featuring barbecue, corn chowder and frybread, among other food, on their menus.