On Tuesday, September 4th, we were invited to Pomona College to perform a healing ceremony as part of Pomona College’s 125th Anniversary Celebrations. This was a big deal, for it was the first time that Pomona College had included any of the local tribes in any official Pomona event!
After getting there at 5:30, we set up, making sure that everything was prepared for the night’s events. Dinner was at 6, followed by the Aztec dancers, then it was time for the Ohlone drums to lead everyone to the Greek theater. With Chief Cerda at its head, the procession wound its way from Frank Dining Hall through the Theater Department, and arriving at the Sontag Greek Theater.
President David Oxtoby was introduced and gave a speech welcoming all to the event. Up next were the White Rose Singers from Sherman Indian High School. Then it was time for the healing ceremony to begin. Chief Cerda started out the event by singing songs to call the ancestors to help with the ceremony. The Humaya dancers danced around the fire. Many Pomona community members, Sherman students, and others, stayed, danced with the bears and Ohlone, and generally had a very positive experience from the ceremony.
Said Chief Cerda of the event: “It was an honor to be asked to do the Ceremony at the 125th Anniversary of Pomona College. It was a great feeling to do this healing ceremony for the people, for the land. The people and the land needed this ceremony. We, as descendents of some of the original people of this land, are always doing what we can to preserve and protect the land and culture of this area. Shururu”
What follows are my personal reflections of the event:
After the Humaya Dancers, it was then time for the bears to emerge. It felt rather unreal that there was going to be a bear ceremony at Pomona College, of all places. Yet at the same time, it was a place that desperately needed it. When the bears came out and danced, I felt that at first people were looking at them with curiosity and shock- like a museum exhibit you get to see in real life- but it then turned into a process where the healing aspect of the ceremony took over. The bears became a part of the healing process- normal and not out of place. Many staff and faculty members of Pomona were seen engaging with the bears to heal personal things; President Oxtoby was even seen dancing with a bear.
Lastly, when everyone was invited to dance and sign around the fire, it helped connect everyone, Native or not, with the ceremony. Everyone was welcomed and encouraged to dance, regardless of whether you knew the steps or not. The welcoming spirit that the Ohlone showed definitely contributed to the positive experience that everyone had. I was honored to help plan this in a small way, and honored to see a healing ceremony at Pomona and I hope that this strong collaboration between Pomona College and tribes in the area continue!