Stanford Powwow is returning to campus this weekend to celebrate Native and Indigenous communities. The event will take place Friday, May 12, through Sunday, May 14, in Eucalyptus Grove across from Stanford Stadium.

Stanford Powwow invites attendees to dress in traditional Native regalia. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Now in its 52nd year, Powwow is expected to attract about 10,000 attendees each day from across the region, the country, and beyond. Each year it convenes members of the Navajo, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Seminole, Choctaw First Nation tribes, and more, many of whom dress in traditional Native American regalia. The event is free and open to all.

The theme of this year’s event is Intertribal Unity, said Stanford undergraduates and Powwow co-chairs Landon Swopes and Nena Dorame.

“One of the great things about Stanford’s native communities is that although a lot of us are from completely different backgrounds, we’re just so connected. It’s like a big family,” Swopes said. “We really wanted to pull that idea into this year’s event.”

According to Swopes, who is part of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, the annual gathering is the largest of its kind in the San Francisco Bay Area and the largest student-run powwow in the nation.

“It’s not only a wonderful, traditional celebration that allows people to express their culture, but it’s also a great leadership-building activity for Indigenous students at Stanford,” Swopes said.

52nd annual Stanford Powwow

The event kicks off Friday at 5 p.m. with the opening of Indian Art Market featuring art vendors from various tribal nations. Friday’s Grand Entry event will take place at 7 p.m. and include a welcome address and a land acknowledgment, followed by an invocation and introduction of head staff, eagle staff, flag-bearers, and visiting royalty.

The 52nd Annual Stanford Powwow will take place Mother’s Day weekend in Eucalyptus Grove. (Image credit: Tim Nevaquaya)

The main Powwow festivities will take place all three days in an arena within Eucalyptus Grove where numerous dance and music contests will be held. There will be competitions for different age groups, genders, and musical and dance styles. Throughout the weekend, attendees can also explore more than 100 booths for art, crafts, and food from a variety of indigenous organizations from around the country.

On Saturday, attendees are invited to the annual 5k Fun Run and Fun Walk, which are fundraisers to support indigenous health and well-being. The walk will begin at 7:30 a.m. and the run will begin at 8 a.m. The route will be entirely on the Stanford campus. Registration can be completed online.

Saturday’s festivities will continue with a Smoke Dance, which is a traditional Native American war dance, and later in the evening special performances by the Stanford Pacific Islander Student Association (PISA) and the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sacramento Youth Group. There will also be a reception for Indigenous Stanford alumni at the Stanford Visitor Center.

Sunday’s program will include a special performance by Stanford Lion Dance, and more dance and music contests. Stanford Powwow will wrap up in the evening with the announcement of contest winners.

Powwow attendees are invited to camp overnight on Stanford grounds Friday and Saturday. Campgrounds will be in Arboretum Grove, across from the main event in Eucalyptus Grove. Camping and parking passes are available for purchase online.

Student tradition

In 1971, the Stanford American Indian Organization (SAIO) hosted the first Stanford Powwow to celebrate the Native and Indigenous members of the university and to make amends for the negative image of the university’s former Indian mascot. SAIO is the umbrella organization for American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders at Stanford. Each year, the Powwow Committee, composed of dozens of Stanford students, organizes all three days of Stanford Powwow.

More information about this year’s event, including a complete schedule, is available on the Stanford Powwow website. Questions can be emailed directly to committee members at