By Dana Ecelberger
Mark your calendars for the 16th annual Mills College Powwow.
Powwows of the past have drawn members of the Mills community together with members of the Native American community for a day of song, dance, food, arts and crafts and fun.
The Mills College Powwow is the first outdoor Powwow of the season. According to Kaylene Kimple, the current organizer for the event, it is the tranquil beauty of the Mills campus that draws so many people here for the festivities.
The Powwow was established by Dr. Ann Metcalf of the Mills anthropology department 16 years ago in recognition of Bill Wahpepah, a friend and respected member of the Bay Area Native American community. His widow coordinated the event for several years before passing the baton to Kaylene and Erik Kimple in 1992.
The Kimple’s, having organized the highly attended Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center Intertribal Powwow for five years, brought with them additions to the Powwow, such as a traditional dinner meal, southern and northern drum circles and a large, loyal following of dancers, singers, drummers, vendors and participants.
To Kaylene Kimple, the event is not a “contest Powwow,” in which dancing and performances are done for prizes, but is about family and connection.
The dancing is done, she said, for the love of dancing. In fact, many dancers choose the Mills powwow for their debut because they feel comfortable here.
In selecting the head staff for dancing, Kimple looks for people who respect traditional ways and who carry themselves with pride in their Indian clothing.
Although there are some “big names” participating in the Powwow, notoriety is not the criteria for participants.
The Mills Powwow is family oriented, exposing Native American children to their cultural roots and allowing them to learn more about their heritage.
Kimple said that she has watched children grow into skilled dancers within the Powwow arena.
Josef Perdiguerra, for example, started coming to the Mills Powwow when he was only six. Now 22, he is a well-respected drummer and dancer who feels more aware of his Native American heritage and community.
Kimple volunteers her time to organize and manage the event. In past Powwows, she has moved through the crowd like a busy buzzing bee, keeping everyone happy, informed and inline. The Mills campus acts as home to the event and Kimple as the gracious and capable hostess, working tirelessly the entire day.
Integral to the Powwow are the students of Dr. Metcalf’s Cultural Anthropology class.
Working with Kimple to organize the day, students have an opportunity to incorporate the cultural concepts learned in class to the real life situations. They manage the beverage and information booths, keep the performers happy, and assist Kimple.
At Toyon Meadow on April 19, the Mills Powow will take place. Dancing and festivities will begin at noon and last until 8 p.m.
There will be beverage booths, food stands, vendors selling jewelry, bead and leatherwork, carved gourds, paintings and other beautiful goods.
A raffle will also take place, with the first prize of a beautiful Pendleton Indian Blanket.
This raffle provides the funds to support the non-profit event.
Raffle tickets can be purchased from students in the Dr. Metcalf’s Cultural Anthropology class prior to or during the event.