Illustration by Christine Hipp

Ten years ago, powwows were a yearly occurrence at UC Santa Cruz. The American Indian Resource Center (AIRC) wants to restore indigenous culture on campus to its former vitality, starting with a Drum Feast.

Michelle Neumann, a second-year sociology major, interns for the AIRC and said she hopes the event will bring awareness to the indigenous communities on campus.

“Native American people are present on campus,” Neumann said. “Because we do have such a small community — I think that a lot of people forget that. We want people to familiarize themselves with aspects of the Native American culture.”

Powwows and Drum Feasts are family and community based events that unite native peoples from various tribes. They both have singers, dancers, indigenous crafts and food — however, a Drum Feast is smaller. The AIRC hopes to host an actual powwow in the near future.

AIRC director Carolyn Dunn said she challenged AIRC students to organize the Drum Feast along an estimated budget.

“The students went out and raised all the money,” Dunn said. “They’ve just been amazing with all the fundraising they’ve been doing, talking to the community members and just believing in this vision I had of this small event.”

There will be many of the same activities seen at a traditional powwow, but the event won’t be as large. AIRC hopes that powwows will become annual for the campus.

Activities include dance competitions, raffles, singing and dancing. The event will feature craft vendors who sell everything from bead work to textile calendars. There will be plenty of food to “feast” upon as well. An Indian taco booth will serve an arrangement of fry bread, beans, lettuce and meat.

Adrianna Montano, a second-year feminist studies major, became involved with the AIRC to help her get in touch with her Native American background.

“Through this event we’re hoping to bring diversity on campus,” Montano said. “By doing this, we hope to educate other people about what our history and culture is.”

This year’s Drum Feast is dedicated to Sophía García-Robles, a former financial aid advisor at UCSC who passed away last year. Through her guidance and perseverance, García-Robles helped many students of underrepresented backgrounds succeed.

“She did a lot to help out Native American students, Mexican-American students, especially [California state law] AB540 students in the financial aid department,” Neumann said.

Neumann had not met Garcia-Robles, but said she is well known and highly spoken of throughout the Chicano Latino Resource Center.

“Sophia was Navajo, a dear friend to Rosie Cabrera, the director of the Chicano/Latino Center, and really helped a lot of people get through college,” Dunn said. “A lot of alumni have said if it wasn’t for Sophia they probably wouldn’t have made it through college.”

Jessi Felix, who also interns at the AIRC, said there is a lack of Native American and indigenous presence on campus, even though the AIRC is available.

“It’s crucial that Native American/indigenous students are aware of resources like the AIRC that are available to them and the events that we host,” Felix said.

Dunn said UCSC would benefit from greater indigenous visibility.

“I think a lot of people think they know something about American Indian cultures and they really don’t,” Dunn said. “People can come to the Drum Feast to learn about native cultures in a good, positive way with people who truly understand the culture.”

Graduating in June, Felix is happy to have seen leadership in action through interning at the AIRC.

“I am very blessed to be part of this event because I have witnessed the amazing work all the AIRC interns have put in to make it happen,” Felix said. “This event is very dear to our hearts.”