Jul 07, 2020
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Dancers honor heritage in pow wow


Joy Marie Hallare / The Collegian

At the Saturday, April 10, pow wow hosted by Fresno State dancers, spectators and vendors came out to celebrate American Indian art and culture. The second annual event at the O’Neill Park was a fusion of a traditional social gathering and a religious event, featuring dancing and drumming.

Dancers at the pow wow represented various tribes but shared one underlying motive why they danced: for their family and loved ones.

Shonna Alexander said she danced to honor her family.

“I’m dancing for my family, to honor them and make them happy,” the 16-year-old Alexander said. “It’s something I love to do. I do it for my great grandmother, my grandmother, and my auntie to give them a good name and to remember them.”

Alexander is a jingle dress dancer. She explained the history of the dance began with the Ojibwe people. She said it is revered as a healing, medicine dance.

Her dress, known as regalia, was brightly colored and adorned with jingles that produced a soothing tinkling sound as the wind clanked the abundant jingles together.

“A cousin of mine helped me learn how to dance and make my regalia,” Alexander said.

She said she continues to dance because it reminds her of her culture and while keep with tradition.


Joy Marie Hallare / The Collegian

“I love to dance because I love to represent who I am,” she said.

Jason Siseo said he started dancing in 2003 when his oldest daughter began performing at pow wows. He said out of the couple hundred members from his family, his three kids and him are the only ones that dance.

“It’s not just a way of life for us but keeps our kids out with everybody making new friends and meeting new people from different tribes,” Siseo said.

He practices the Northern Traditional Dance that originated from warriors. He said his regalia is designed for battle, with a choker and breast plates to protect the warrior when fighting. Most dancers have one regalia because of the amount of meaning behind it, he said.

“I’m always nervous when I put these on because these are real sacred to us,” Siseo said. “I’m always nervous when I come to dance but I just remember my loved ones and the ones that can’t dance. It goes away after a little while but I’m always nervous.”

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