Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending Palomar College’s California Indian day celebration sponsored by the American Indian Studies Department (AIS). The event was held in a lecture hall to a standing room only crowd. Calvin One Deer, a colleague and director of the Grant Funded Student Programs spent much of the presentation literally finding extra chairs from other rooms for students who kept pouring in as the event continued.
Patti Dixon, chair of the department, introduced colleagues from the AIS department, the presenters for the afternoon and set a welcoming tone for the event. Ed Castillo, emeritus from Sonoma State University was the first presenter. He warned us that he wasn’t feeling well and therefore would be seated during his presentation. Even given this limitation, Dr. Castillo educated and entertained the audience with a blend of humor “This is B.C. folks, you know, Before Casinos” or “Controlling Indians is not an easy thing to do, I can hardly control myself sometimes!” and a critical eye toward institutional practices that have stood in the way of native sovereignty (including medicine, social science and education). His humor was met with resounding laughter and his words met with deep respect and engagement. His piece focused on celebrating examples of historical and modern Indian leadership including Salvador Palma, Toypurina, Ishi, Jane Penn, and Ernest Siva amongst many others. Dr Castillo also told some interesting stories and anecdotes about himself, which was very appropriate, since he has a long record of scholarship, advocacy and activism.
After Dr. Castillo’s presentation, we were presented with a performance of the Bird singers and dancers with Peter Arviso as the lead. The performance included several traditional songs which were really beautiful, mixing the steady percussion of gourd rattles with harmonious and moving words while dancers conveyed the energy through rhythmic motion and energy. The troupe included a very talented group of people with two very young children who seemed to be so happy and proud as they continually urged throughout the performance to play on.
The event was completed with an uplifting presentation by adjunct AIS faculty member Flora Howe and a closing by faculty emeritus Linda Locklear (who promises to keep visiting us and teaching me things!). After the formal presentations, people gathered outside to enjoy good food and good company.
The event was a huge success and managed to enlighten the audience about the important contributions of native people’s to American/California history in a manner that was welcoming, funny and yet still conveyed the importance of this leadership. Thank you to all who made this important event a success. If you want to learn more about our American Indian Studies department please visit this link:
All photos by Calvin One Deer