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Annual pow wow honors Indigenous veterans, culture

ASU West Valley campus tradition celebrates 20th anniversary

Native American man dressed in traditional, brightly-colored clothing and dancing.
November 03, 2023

Editor's note: This story is part of our Salute to Service coverage, Nov. 8–18. Learn about the schedule of events.  

Charles Yellow Horse has two dreams for his young son, Nathan.

The Arizona State University student wants him to learn about his family’s Navajo culture. And, after serving in the U.S. Air Force for six years, Yellow Horse, 33, hopes that one day, his boy will understand how meaningful that experience was for him.

ASU student  is honored at annual Veteran's Day Pow Wow

Charles Yellow Horse

Yellow Horse will have the opportunity to do both at ASU's 20th annual Veterans Day Pow Wow. The free event is part of the Native American Heritage Festival, which takes place from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Nov. 11 in front of Fletcher Library on the West Valley campus. It is is open to the public.

The event falls on Veterans Day and is part of ASU’s Salute to Service, which honors the contributions of all ASU veterans. 

“When I was growing up on the reservation, there was a very honorable view of joining the military,” said Yellow Horse, who graduates with a master’s degree in global health this December.

According to the United Service Organizations, Native Americans serve in the United States’ Armed Forces at five times the national average. 

“I felt proud to serve, and the experience served me,” said Yellow Horse, who will be joined by his family at the event. “It was a way to find stability and also a way of finding out what my true calling was.” 

The pow wow will be a multi-tribal celebration that features sacred drumming, dancing and singing. Traditionally, only warriors danced in pow wows. Today, many of them incorporate warrior traditions and are used to honor Native veterans.

“It is a big part of Native American culture — honoring our warriors — honoring the people who sacrificed for this land,” said Jacob Meders, associate professor in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and co-chair of the event.

The day is also an opportunity for Native Americans to showcase their handmade crafts and traditional foods. 

ArtSpace West Gallery will host the newly opened Native Veterans Print Exhibition. Meders, a member of the Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria, organized the exhibit featuring relief printmaking created by veterans. The show is a collaboration with the Heard Museum.

Yellow Horse will be formally recognized alongside fellow veteran Eliza DelaPaz during the event.

ASU student and veteran  is honored at annual Pow Wow

Eliza DelaPaz

DelaPaz served in the U.S. Marines from 2013 to 2019. 

“I intuitively knew that I needed a solid foundation,” said DelaPaz, explaining her choice to enter the service. 

She said that the friends she had at the time she enlisted are now “either no longer with us or are in jail.”

“I was on a different trajectory,” she said. 

DelaPaz is in her third year at ASU, studying neuroscience. After graduating, she plans to develop a K-12 curriculum which emphasizes mindfulness and expand her life coaching business. 

 “I’m grateful that I'm part of an institution that does this — that makes space for us and recognizes the time we have dedicated to our country.”

Top photo: Sooya Davis, from the Hopi Nation’s Second Mesa, is scheduled to assume the role of Head Man at the ASU West Valley campus’ 20th Annual Veteran’s Day Pow Wow. Photo by Sooya Davis

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