On April 12, 2014 at Mills College, I attended my very first Pow Wow. There’s so much we are not taught about the indigenous people of these lands and the mounds and grounds we walk on that often literally consist of the relics.  “Indian'” blood was spilled and their bones, crushed and rolled over after the Indian Wars. All that remains is street signs with “funny” names some of us choose to gloss over.

But that Saturday I was on a campus I walked on frequently, but it was like being in another country. I watched the dancers in their regalia, sporting colorful beads, feathers and  and the like and meanwhile some were in jeans and tees. I even saw a little blonde  boy so white he looked albino in full dress chanting all the songs. I watched him run back into the arms of what looked like a gray haired tribal chief! I have the utmost respect to all true natives who teach and maintain traditions that feed their souls and honor their ancestors.

Seeing that little white American Indian and a little black American Indian boy carrying a staff reminded me of a quote from my poem “WAR” that states. “Focusing on hair color, skin color and a last name will not tell you if a cultural heritage and legacy is being maintained.”  I undoubtedly have indigenous blood in my DNA. I could just feel it so much I felt I had to hide my tears. I’m sure a few people experience this their first Pow Wow. I just had a strong feeling like I belonged until…well.

Here’s a poem I wrote about another experience I had that day.


My First Pow Wow

By Venus Jones

before i could see anything
i heard the sacred sound
i felt the drums enter me
the chanting was hypnotic
there was healing
hovering over that circle
where they danced
i was full of gratitude
i even wanted to clap 
for them and god but
this was not a performance
when all tribes and nations
were welcomed to join in
it was the least i could do
we were taking steps together
we were the globe 
rotating around under 
sunbeams beautiful and bright
i decided to wave to a friend
across the way 
she didn’t see me 
for a moment
her eyes staring down
at the movement of feet
when she smiled
i began feeling it
a sense of community
after the song ended
i went to sit down
and a man in traditional garb
said, “these chairs are for family.”
embarrassed and hurt at first
at the bitterness of his tone
i just nodded and smiled
i didn’t know their rituals
i had to check my privilege
i sat on the green grass nearby
right next to an empty chair
that was likely for the deceased
i imagined
as i sat there on the earth
indian style
for the remaining time
i realized
i was willing to earn my place
i was willing to prove it
i was seeking
more than entertainment
on a Saturday afternoon
if he only knew
i truly felt
at peace
at home