As Native American dancers dressed in their best regalia, complete with vibrant outfits, headdresses and face paint, chanted and danced to the beat of the drums, the 26th annual Hart of the West Native American Pow Wow and Craft Fair was on.
Hundreds gathered at Hart Park to watch ceremonial dances and explore the numerous vendor booths on Saturday, including a number of Native Americans from various regions.
“Pow Wows are traditionally a gathering of (Native American) nations, but it’s wonderful that we get to share this with others,” said Tanis Smith, a member of the Cree nation. “Though they might not understand the importance and meaning behind many of our dances, at least they can see the magic and learn our stories.”
Though Smith came from Oregon to visit her family, she said she made sure to plan her trip around the Pow Wow.
“If I can make it, I’ll always spend at least a day here,” she said. “My family has a lot of Native American roots, so it’s really nice to be able to see our traditions being upheld.”
The two-day celebration features performances by dancers and drummers, including some which are open to all who would like to join, along with numerous displays of arts and crafts and traditional Native American food and drinks.
When 11-year-old Aztec dancer Whitney Perez finished her performance, she didn’t stop dancing, instead, she continued to jump along to the beat, laughing as she went.
“I think I did a good job,” she said, smiling broadly. “I just hope I made my mom proud.”
Perez said she’s been dancing since before she can remember and hopes to continue in the same fashion.
“I just love it so much,” she added. “Dressing up and dancing are two of my favorite things. Then there’s the stories we get to tell with our dances — it’s like I’m an actress starring in my own movie.”
In fact, Perez isn’t very far off the mark.
“We were the original people of this land and though a lot of our history is not written, our stories are told through song and dance,” said John Lenox, or Little Wahya, of the Cherokee nation. “Every tribe has their own origin, but we all belong to this land. This is our way of celebrating that and our traditions.”
Admission for the event is free and continues 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday at Hart Park, located at 24151 Newhall Ave. in Newhall. For more information, visit friendsofhartpark.com/silents or call 661-259-1750.