Chumash Powwow celebration honors a generation-long tradition

Tribal members perform a dance at the Chumash Powwow last weekend at Malibu Bluffs Park. Photo by Devon Meyers/TMT.

Native Americans tribes from all over the western and southwestern states gathered at Malibu Bluffs Park once again to sing, dance, and socialize for the 22nd Annual Chumash Powwow, a generations-long tradition.

Native American head staff included: Ricky Two Bears Meyers, head man; Taylor Begay, head woman; Randolph Pico Jr., head young man; and Altheas Hale, head young woman. Bear Springs Singers, on northern drums, and Hale and Company, on southern drums, accompanied the dancers. The event began with an invocation and prayer led by Chumash-Tataviam Elder Alan Salazar. 

Usually celebrated for two days, the event was reduced to one day this year following the pandemic. With an estimated 3,000 in attendance, Community Service Deputy Director Kristin Riesgo said the city had an increase of Native American dancers and singers from previous years. 

The city typically allows 30 merchandise vendors and five food trucks at an event; however, there were nine merchandise vendors and three food trucks at Saturday’s celebration. The food truck vendors included Kabob Express, The Steamin Burger, and Apollo’s Shaved Ice. The city decided to reduce the number of vendors and food trucks as a COVID-19 precaution.

The event featured a variety of Native American arts and crafts, Native American tribal ceremonies, dances, special guest performances, and Chumash history storytelling.

While parking was available off-site on the corner of Civic Center Way and Webb Way, transportation was available to Malibu Bluffs Park. 

Chumash Elder and Chair of the Chumash Indian Museum Beverly Folkes introduced the City Council members and commissioners in attendance.

“Thank you all for allowing us to be here,” Folkes said.

Mayor Paul Grisanti carried the City of Malibu flag for the grand opening ceremony.

“I just want to thank you for the opportunity to welcome you back to Malibu today,” Grisanti said to the crowd. “It’s been terrible that we weren’t able to do this the last two years and I’m so grateful we’re here today to enjoy the beauty that is Malibu and the beauty that is your family.”

Speaker and tribal announcer Randolph Pico said the members of the local Chumash tribe, representing many different tribes, get to celebrate their heritage and birth rights with others in this ceremony.

“Thank you for acknowledging the land and the Chumash people here,” Pico said to the crowd. 

City Councilmember Karen Farrer returned the sentiment.

“I too want to welcome everyone here today,” she said. “I just really want to acknowledge all the work and effort that goes into this on the part of the city, and by all the tribal representation and everyone here celebrating Chumash Days and Chumash heritage.”

Spiritual Advisor Alan Salazar prayed over the circle for the grand opening ceremony and acknowledged and honored those who were lost the last two years. 

“Everything in here goes in a good way; problems out of the circle, we come to dance in a good way,” Pico said. “Many of us are seeing folks we haven’t seen in a while. We miss them; they’re good for our hearts, our souls for who we are.”

Riesgo said the city hopes in 2023 to return to the number of vendors they would have during a typical year (pre-COVID). As for the shuttle rides to Malibu Bluffs Park, the city is evaluating how to make shuttles more efficient with shorter wait times and hopes to return to a two-day event. 

Chumash Days Devon Meyers 4
Tribal members perform a dance at the Chumash Powwow last weekend at Malibu Bluffs Park. Photo by Devon Meyers/TMT.