Berkeley’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day PowWow canceled in light of poor air quality

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Berkeley’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day PowWow, which was scheduled to take place this Saturday, Oct. 14, has been canceled, according to an announcement made on the event’s Facebook page Thursday evening. The event’s organizers chose to cancel the event because of the severe conditions related to poor air quality in the East Bay — a symptom of the widespread fires burning in several counties across Northern California.  

According to Hallie Frazer, vendor-coordinator for the pow wow and author of the Facebook post, some of the Pomo dancers participating in the pow wow also had relatives that were significantly impacted by the presence of fire in the Clearlake area (several hours north of Berkeley). Venturing down into Berkeley for the pow wow may have put these relatives at further risk.

This year marks the 25th iteration of Berkeley’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day PowWow, which coincides with the 525th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the New World. Set to take place in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, the pow wow was intended to be an inclusive celebration of Native American artistic vibrancy and culture as well as a space for Native communities to connect not only with non-Natives but with each other as well. Coordinated in large part by Indigenous Peoples’ Day Committee founding member John Curl, pow wow coordinator Gino Barichello and Frazer, along with the rest of the committee, the pow wow promised food and music as well as traditional dances alongside authentic crafts and products from vendors.

Before Frazer made the Facebook announcement, many of the vendors and other community members had been posting to the event page, with several of them having heard from outside sources — including the Intertribal Friendship House — that the pow wow would be canceled.

“I would have preferred to have had personal conversations with all the vendors instead of them finding out through the leaks that have already spilled; but that said, the time is short,” wrote Frazer in the post.

Fortunately, Frazer promises that the event will return next year in full force. The main priority, of course, is the safety of all those who are currently impacted by the effects of the fire — both outside the Berkeley community and within it.

“We are all deeply disappointed, as I know you all will be,” wrote Frazer. “We are doing the responsible thing at this point, and look forward to an even better PowWow than we would have had, next year.”

Shannon O’Hara is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].