Saturday, November 21, 2015

Native American Celebration and Dance Nov. 24 at Cuyamaca College

Dancers at the 2014 Native American Social
Gathering and Dance
The latest in a growing number of Native American celebrations at Cuyamaca College takes place Tuesday, Nov. 24, with the 5th annual Native American Social Gathering & Dance, an event that last year drew more than 200 people.

The Social Gathering & Dance takes place from noon to 3 p.m. on the Cuyamaca College Grand Lawn. It features the Soaring Eagles, a Native American cultural dance group based in San Diego, whose members will detail the symbolism and history behind each dance and what they mean to individual tribes. Added this year are performances from Aztec dancers.

The celebration is free and open to the public.

“It’s a wonderful educational experience for people from other cultures who may not know a lot about the Native American culture to get a glimpse of our culture, what we do and what we are about,” said Rachel Tsosie, president of the Cuyamaca College Native American Student Alliance that helped organize the event.

The Social Gathering & Dance debuted five years ago after a student passing through a library display during Native American Heritage Month asked if any other events were scheduled and if it was possible to bring Native American dancers to perform at the campus, said Maria Gearhart, a multimedia technician in the library who is the event’s main organizer. Gearhart quickly contacted administrators and organizers within the Native American community, resulting in a celebration that included speakers, educational activities and dancers that drew about 50 people.

“It’s all free, it’s very educational, and everybody has a great time,” Gearhart said.

Cuyamaca College has a small-but-active group of Native American students who last year founded the Native American Student Alliance with a goal of promoting tribal heritage. “Our focus is to support the advancement of our students at Cuyamaca College and within the local communities,” the group says on its website.We aim to enhance the cultural and social environment of Cuyamaca College and encourage its spirit of diversity.”

The student group organized Cuyamaca College’s first ever powwow in February, an all-day event in the campus gym that included gourd dancing, Native American arts and crafts, along with fry bread and Indian tacos. The 2nd Annual Native American Student Alliance Powwow is set for Feb. 6 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Next spring, Cuyamaca College will offer a course in Kumeyaay history, a course taught in conjunction with Kumeyaay Community College. Meanwhile, the Cuyamaca College library is honoring Native American Heritage Month through November with displays of Native American artifacts, art and literature.

The pairing of the college with the Native American community is a natural, Tsosie said, noting that Cuyamaca’s name comes from a Kumeyaay phrase, “Ekwiiyemak,” which has been translated to mean “behind the clouds,” “above the rains,” and “the place where the rain comes from the heavens.”

Cuyamaca College is at 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway in the community of Rancho San Diego.