Nearly 600 people turned out for Ventura College's second annual powwow Saturday, an event geared to teach Native American children about their rich cultural heritage.
Young and old alike were dressed in traditional regalia, sporting feathered headdresses and jangling bell-and-nut anklets. All day long, different groups comprising scores of nations danced and sang inside a wide, circular arena, sacred to Native Americans.
"We teach the kids the respect of the arena," said Carol Anderson, who is part Cherokee and a community advisor for the Ventura County Indian Education Consortium. "To us, the circle is life, it's creation, it's everything."
The powwow, held at the college's quad, was sponsored by the Ventura College Native American Club, the Candelaria American Indian Council and the Channel Island Arts Institute. It was co-hosted by the 22-year-old Indian Education Consortium, a federal program that tutors 1,000 Native American public schoolchildren in Ventura County about their culture.
For 12 hours Saturday, the children--most of whom participate in the educational consortium program throughout the year--watched, learned and then joined in the powwow dancing.
Shortly after noon, a grand ceremony was held, in which tribal hierarchies bearing flags paraded into the arena. The Chumash people were honored first, since the college is located in their original homeland--and then about 40 children joined the elders, moving to the beat of drums and wooden clappers.
"This is all to educate our young people," Anderson said. "We want them to get into the powwow thing."
Gilbert Ramirez, co-president of the college's Native American club, said this year's powwow was better attended and better organized than the first event last year.
He added that he believes the impact of the powwow is important and far-reaching.
"We want to bring awareness to Ventura," he said. "We want to show there is a Native American presence in this city. We're committed to doing stuff in the community."
Officials said all the groups that sponsored the powwow will donate their proceeds for Native American student scholarships.