Students gather in celebration of Native American Day

Ryan Mullins, Guest Writer

Feathers flashed and twirled about in the Cosumnes River College cafeteria Thursday as the California Miwok Dancers performed their ceremonial dances.

Outside, the smell of fry bread tacos rose up from the quad and a line formed stretching around the fountain as students waited to try the free Miwok version of this Native American specialty.

In the dances, the men and older boys stood in the rear, keeping the beat with their traditional clapsticks while the boys and girls danced out front, ranging from grade-school age to their late teens.

They were dressed in a mix of traditional and casual clothes stomping the beat, the boys blowing whistles in time to the music, reminiscent of the calls of birds.

“When we dance, we have the drum on the ground.  The Earth is our drum.  These are our instruments.” said Miwok Elder Richard Ragudo, indicating the clapsticks he and the other men were holding.

Ragudo, also known as Razzle Dazzle, addressed a group of around 60 students gathered in the cafeteria. The fifth annual Native celebratory performance, usually held out in the quad, had to be moved inside this year on account of the rain.  But this did nothing to dampen the Miwok Dancers’ native spirits.

One element of the festivities, however, was conspicuously absent this year.

Tanya Reyes, president of the Indigenous Native American Club, said that last year a vendor’s money and wares were stolen from their booth so she asked vendors not to risk coming this year over worries about theft.

She did say, however, that there would be some vendors present at the Friday concert featuring John Trudell and Cody Blackbird, both famous artists and activists.

Reyes, who was the student organizer for the event and also helped with the cooking in the quad had much to say about this event and what it means to her.

“This is a celebration and a protest,” Reyes said. She went on to say that Cosumnes River College is built on a Miwok burial site.  As the foundations were being laid, Native bones were found and kept, not being returned until 2008.

“The best way to heal the pain is to start telling the truth and honoring the people who were here before the college,” Reyes said.

History Professor Jason Newman also helped organize the event.

Professor Newman said the main goal for this event was, “simply to provide a Native event for the public to see and to make the public more aware of Native needs, concerns, contributions to history and society and give students a chance to get involved.”

He also said there are plans to expand the event in future.

In agreeing to bring the dancers, Elder Razzle said he was motivated by, “ the opportunity to share our culture and getting the children involved in things that are positive.”