American Indian Day celebrates with song and dance at Palomar

The 44th annual American Indian Day brought the sights, sounds and culture of California’s indigenous peoples to Palomar students on September 27.

Originally instated in 1968 by then Gov. Ronald Reagan, American Indian Day is a statewide celebration honoring California’s more than 100 Native American tribes. Palomar’s event kicked off with a presentation highlighting Indian “bird songs” followed by a gathering that included food and musical performances by a group of Cahuilia Indian musicians.

According to Alan Lechusza Aquallo, assistant professor of Indian studies, bird songs are meant to completely embody the culture of a tribe. This can include its language, location, history and genecology. The instruments used by California Indians include clap-sticks and rattles and shakers but the Gourd shaker was the primary instrument at the gathering.

“The songs carry medicine for the people,” Aquallo added.

Bird songs are unique to California Indians. People tend to associate Indians with drums, but California Indians don’t have a drum culture and don’t use them, according to Aquallo. One of the goals of the gathering was to illustrate how Indian cultures differ from state to state, as well as from one tribe to another.

Palomar student Aliassa Shane said she found the presentation on bird songs enlightening.

“I thought it was amazing,” she said. “It gave a basic PowerPoint over what it is, the instruments that are involved, and the regalia that’s used.

“It’s native to this region and connects traditional culture to contemporary culture and mends the two,” she added.

Patricia Ann Dixon, professor of Indian studies, said that the event is often used as an opportunity to address issues within the Indian community. “We’ve done issues on sovereignty, federal policy and female tribal leaders,” Dixon said.

California American Indian day takes place on the fourth Friday of every September.

Author: Shaun Kahmann

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