Fresno State president joins dancers at First Nations Powwow

Fresno State’s 24th annual First Nations Powwow kicked off Saturday with a rhythmic procession of American Indian dancers that included Fresno State president Joseph Castro.

Castro, the son of a member of the San Carlos Apache tribe, celebrated with more than 100 attendees. He addressed the Indigenous Student Organization’s goal of hiring a Native American professor of American Indian studies.

“We’re working hard together to make sure ... that we hire more faculty from more diverse backgrounds, including Native Americans, at Fresno State,” he said.

Political science professor Kenneth Hansen called Castro “the highest-ranking American Indian ... at Fresno State.”

“The theme for this year’s powwow is fighting to preserve American Indian studies at Fresno State,” Hansen said. He described the event as “a social and cultural gathering” with “spiritual elements.”

Although organizers didn’t know precisely how many American Indian tribes were represented at the powwow, Hansen said there were about two dozen tribes in Central California alone. “We also have tribes from outside of California, Navajos, Apaches from the southwest ... Seminoles, Cherokees, and Choctaws,” he said.

The event included a competition with dancers dressed in elaborate costumes featuring feathers, face paint, bells, moccasins and seashells. Dancers were divided into categories based on gender and age to compete for a cash prize. Styles of dance included gourd dancing, feather dancing and jingle-dress dancing.