The first Stanford Powwow marks students’ initiative to educate the public on the complexity of Native American culture, as apprehended by the arts of tribal nations. In 1970, students had voiced disapproval over Stanford’s former mascot, an offensive image of an Indian. The powwow exhibited several dance forms, some featured dramatic spins and leaps, others demonstrated intricate footwork, and still others accentuated the movements of the upper body. This powwow was widely attended by non-Native students and faculty, and facilitated President Richard Lyman’s decision to drop the Indian mascot in 1972.
Invigorated by the powwow’s artistic contribution and political efficacy, students continued holding them year after year with administrative support. Their displays of activism crystallized at the institutional level with establishments of Stanford’s Native American Cultural Center and Muwekma-Tah-Ruk, a Native American residential theme house named after the Muwekma Ohlone people, or the indigenous residents of Stanford’s geographic territory. Presently the Native American Cultural Center and the Stanford American Indian Organization co-sponsor the powwows. This annual tradition continues to enliven each spring with traditional dance and music performances, breathtaking costumes, and handmade crafts and jewelry.
Featured image: Native American dancer performing in Stanford Powwow, photograph by Dean Eyre