ASU West holds Native American Heritage Festival

GLENDALE, Ariz.— Arizona State University’s West Campus hosted the Native American Heritage Festival, a celebration honoring Native American culture and tradition, Saturday, Nov. 9. The event also featured the “Veterans Day Weekend Traditional Pow Wow”, held annually by student organizations at the university to honor both Native and Non-native veterans.

This festival is in conjunction with Arizona’s Native American Recognition Days held during October and November of every year and hosts some of the rich cultural traditions of the Native populations. At the opening of the festival, Native American men of multiple tribes participated in gourd dancing, a traditional warrior ceremony which originated with the Kiowa tribe. The dancers, some of which were veterans themselves, held eagle feathers and danced in rhythmic steps to the beat of a drum.

Wilford, a Navajo dancer, isn’t a veteran, but said that he dances for his mother and father who were both involved with the army.

“Before they passed, they said, ‘Dance for us when we’re gone,’ so dad gave me these feathers. . . they’re eagle feathers, they symbolize freedom, of expression, culture,” Wilford said.

Wilford noted that this event is especially important because now the veterans are receiving recognition. “When I first got started with the Kiowa Nation, it wasn’t for veterans. . . now we dedicate it for them” he said.

There were multiple vendor booths in attendance as well, selling hand-beaded bracelets, blankets, and medicine bags— a small pouch traditionally made from leather. Other booths were purely informational, representing clubs on campus that offered resources and support for Indigenous students in college. These included the American Indian Graduate Student Association (AIGSA), IndiGenius, Alliance of Indigenous Peoples, and Glendale Community College’s own Native American Student Association.

From 1-5 p.m., an art exhibit was held at the ArtSpace West Gallery on campus. The exhibit, titled “Indigenous Resistance: the Art of the Protest” was curated by Remy of the Diné, or Navajo tribe, and Jacob Meders of the Mechoopda tribe, who works as an assistant professor at ASU.

At 1 p.m., the Grand Entry signaled the official commencement of the powwow, an event filled with singing, dancing, and tradition which continued in the evening. The festival in total lasted nearly 11 hours, making time for a public recognition of the veterans in attendance before completing the final closing ceremony at 10 p.m.

The Heritage Festival and powwow events held at ASU were originally created by the Native American Student Organization (NASO), which formed in 2000 to “build both a socially and academically supportive community” according to the handout provided to attendees. The first festival was hosted that same year, and every year since then the tradition has grown tremendously in popularity, bringing vendors and Native cultures from across the southwest to ASU.

It is thanks to student organizations, as well as the ASU Native American Events Committee (NAEC) that the Heritage Festival and the powwow continue to be a reality, allowing people to enjoy Native American culture and tradition. The collection curated by Jacob Meders and Remy will continue to be available for viewing at the ASU West campus ArtSpace Gallery until Thursday, Nov. 21, from 12-4 p.m.