Last year, local Native Americans staged a pow wow that drew more than 6,000 people to the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds to celebrate Indian art and culture. Nearly 350 dancers, ranging in age from 1-year-old “teeny tots” to distinguished tribal elders, performed. This year, the event might not even happen.
After two years of solid funding—there was $31,000 in donations last year—the pow wow has only $3,000 this time around.
Bebba Aguayo, president of the Chico Pow Wow Board of Directors and a Yankton-Nakota, said the board has already decided to scale the event back to one day if necessary (it was three last year) and make do with a minimum $10,000 budget.
“We’re kind of at a standstill right now,” Aguayo said. If they don’t get enough money by May 21, they’ll cancel the June 21-22 event altogether.
Last year, said committee member Rocky Cruz, both native and nonnative people felt inspired by the dancing and ceremonies. “It was a way for me to learn about something that felt like I was coming home,” said Cruz, who is Yute, Maidu and Aztec. “It was so spiritual, and I felt so grounded. This is just about being real again.”
Chico Pow Wow 2003 is subtitled “Sober Nations.” That’s because the pow wow also takes the opportunity to educate the community by bringing in government and private organizations teaching about tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse and health care.
The volunteer pow wow committee members feel hurt that more tribal casinos have not stepped forward, especially since some are giving freely to the cowboy-heavy Red Bluff Roundup and other nonnative causes. Gold Country Casino and Feather Falls Casino have donated—not as much as in the past, but their gifts are very appreciated. Other area casinos were approached but turned the committee down flat or asked it to come in and be “evaluated.” Since the pow wow was already a proven success, Aguayo found that distasteful. “When we have to grovel to our own people, it’s really sad.”
Rose Haney, another committee member, who is Tejon, Apache and Paiute, said, “There were so many years that our people weren’t allowed to hold their ceremonies. Now, some have forgotten who they are.”
The committee turned to the Chico business community but got little response there, as well. “We just can’t believe that so many people have turned us away,” Aguayo said.
How to help
The money pays for the pow wow to bring in dancers and drummers from as far away as Oklahoma, Indiana and Utah, a diverse representation intended to expand the understanding of different cultures and their traditions. It costs $1,500 a day just to rent the facilities. Honorariums are also paid to the “head youth” and other roles, plus cash awards to dance contest winners. Admission is free.
To pitch in at any level, contact the Chico Pow Wow Committee at 2889 Cohasset Road, Suite 4, Chico, CA 95973. You can also call Aguayo at 898-8516 during the day or 893-8849 in the evening.
The nonprofit pow wow operates under the umbrella of the Four Winds of Indian Education school, which means donations are tax-deductible.