Caitlin Hernandez / CourierA dancer performs in a traditional Jingle Dress for Living Culture: Intertribal Student Collective's Native American Day by the mirror pools at PCC on Friday, September 27, 2019. The Jingle Dress derives its sound from rolled tobacco lids.
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Underneath a small tarp by the mirror pools at Pasadena City College, indigenous students were able to see a reflection of themselves in a community that is often hard to find, during the Native American Day” event. The sound of traditional hand drums and songs set a serious, profound tone as visitors of all backgrounds were captured with attention.

“It’s a space for all indigenous students no matter where you’re from,” Living Culture: Intertribal Student Collective club president Beka Gallardo said. “We are here and we’re not to be taken lightly.”

Gallardo, who is San Carlos Apache, prefers not use her government name and instead uses Bii (b-EE), meaning ‘deer’ in Apache, when possible. Like her, indigenous students have had to find ways to connect to their roots due to the United States’ use of colonization.

Chartering just a week prior, the Living Culture: Intertribal Student Collective club ushered in an experience of Native culture, with an invite for all that offered educational speakers, dancers and tribal songs.

The event featured engagements from the California Native Bird Singers and Pow Wow Dancers in traditional regalia who happily encouraged attendees to learn authentically by joining in. Activists Phillip Hale and International Indigenous Youth Council’s Haatepah were also important speakers that helped shed light on Pasadena’s history under the Tongva people and the current struggles the people still face.

“Today, there’s a genocide on [the Tongva people]; there’s been a lot of land removal,” Haatepah said. “Some of their people have been merged into mainstream Mexican, so some people have Tongva blood and they don’t even know it. They just identify as Mexican.”

Haatepah, who only uses his Native name and is Kumeyaay-Luiseño, introduced the gathering to the ceremonial smudging. In this tradition, tribes of Turtle Island (North and South America) burn white sage to smudge an area to cleanse it of its “bad medicine.”

To learn more about Los Angeles’ historical roots with indigenous tribes, click here.

Visitors of the event were not only indigenous students, but those that have intersecting identities, such as Danielle Beard.

“It struck me to come because I’m sort of in this space in my life where I’m reclaiming my identity,” said Beard. “Not just with my Native American heritage but also with my Cuban and African heritage, as well. Within the African American community, people don’t necessarily know where they’re from. I’m fortunate to know where I come from, at least, in my Native American culture.”

Beard, who is a media studies major, also came because she wants to learn more about her roots as she prepares to work in the film industry.

“It’s really important that we have that representation and it starts with people being active, doing things, putting it online,” Beard said.

Beard hopes to continue this journey of discovery by joining the club’s weekly meetings.

“It’s been something I’ve been trying to do on my own, and now I don’t have to,” Beard said. “It’s so nice to see everyone that’s within this community come in all different shapes, sizes, races and colors. It’s something that I definitely want to continue with.”

The Living Cultures: Intertribal Student Collective club meets by the mirror pools at PCC on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. with plans to have indoor Tuesday meetings in the future.


**This story has been edited to fix title and spelling errors.

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