I love the sound of bells. It’s one of the reasons why I love the Stanford Powwow. The chime of bells there is magical. This sound is a proclamation which announces the majesty of a dancer, the bringing together of a community and the strength of bloodlines.
To say Native American communities have struggled is an understatement. Men and women in my indigenous Christian congregation used to tell me stories about running away from boarding school, being separated from their families and the strife of making one’s way through a Westernized world. Today, Native American communities continue to struggle. Yesterday, working an information booth in the heat and dust, I felt grief thrumming through me along with the pulse of the drum. The booth was on this year’s theme, “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.” It was sad to state stark facts like “Homicide is the third leading cause of death among Native women ages 10-24” or “Native women are 2.5 times as likely to experience rape or sexual assault in comparison to women in general.” It was sad to see people with watery eyes speak to me of relatives they knew who had gone missing or were murdered.
At the same time, it filled me with hope to talk to all the people who stopped by. So many people within the United States and Canada are working to help their communities. Meeting social activists working on and off campus has been inspiring to me as a non-Native American wanting to get involved. It amazes me to see that there are hundreds more people like me who are ready and waiting to be educated and help. This is why we have organizations like the Native American Cultural Center (NACC) on campus. It’s why there are events like Stanford Powwow. It’s here to invite all of Stanford into an uniquely vibrant community, to teach all of us about their culture and the realities of their existence. They’re not only here to get the knowledge out, but also to celebrate. Celebrate, because our Native communities are still here. They’re not confined to history textbooks or limited to a few exhibits in a museum. They are here, dancing and singing the songs passed to them by their ancestors, jingling bells of hope.
Contact Sophia Kim-O’Sullivan at huali99 ‘at’ stanford.edu.