NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE took center stage over the recent holiday weekend as the University of the Pacific hosted the Annual Stockton Labor Day Pow Wow.

The University of the Pacific El Centro, formerly known as the Latinx Community Outreach Office, along with the Stockton Pow Wow Committee hosted the two-day celebration that ran through Sunday at the university’s DeRosa Lawn.

The annual gathering was first held 42 years ago at the Native American Indian Education Center, according to Pow Wow Committee Chair Destiny Rivas. The pow wow was traditionally held as a three-day event until the pandemic.

Jacqulyn Martinez holds onto the walking harness of Ivy Reign, 11 months, during the Grand Entry portion of the Annual Stockton Community Pow Wow at University of the Pacific on Saturday. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

The pow wow opened Saturday with older male veterans blessing the grounds, followed by the Grand Entry and a series of dances.

“The Grand Entry is the highlight of the season,” Rivas said.

It opened with a Native Honor Guard, followed by the chosen dancers picked to represent different tribes, the pow wow princess and visiting royalty from all over the nation.

“And that’s how we start our pow wow. It’s spectacular to see,” Rivas said.

The event also had several vendors selling Native American jewelry, accessories, clothes and home décor alongside fresh, hot food such as buffalo burgers, Indian hot dogs, Native American tacos with frybread and frybread desserts.

Despite its cultural significance, Rivas stressed that the pow wow is intended as a public event and that organizers each year welcome everyone to experience Native American arts, culture and food — with one caveat:

“A lot of people get nervous and think that we don’t want them to come in,” Rivas said. “We want everyone to come just listen to the songs and the emcee, (but) don’t walk across the grounds because we bless it.”

Georgina Acosta (right) gives Andrew Young a bite of fry bread with strawberries during the Annual Stockton Community Pow Wow at University of the Pacific on Saturday. Event organizers organizers welcomed visitors to experience Native American arts, culture and food. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)