This weekend, on a radiant Sunday morning and afternoon, hundreds of people gathered at the Oval, a central circular green space at Mills College, for a pow wow ceremony and celebration of “Indigenous community, culture and resistance.” 

It was the eighth such gathering at Mills, an event that typically happens every other year but didn’t last year due to COVID. The pow wow is organized and co-sponsored by the college’s ethnic studies department—a major at risk of no longer being accredited once Mills merges with Northeastern University—along with the Mills College Indigenous Women’s Alliance.

Kicking off with a land acknowledgment and blessing, the event honored Dr. Melinda Micco (Muskogee Creek, Seminole), the first tenured faculty member in Native studies at Mills, who passed away in December.

Lining the Oval at Mills were over two dozen artisans and vendors, information booths, and a couple of food trucks, all part of the Indigenous Red Market, which usually takes place on the first Sunday of the month in Fruitvale. Representatives of the California Tribal College were on hand to share information about the Yolo County-based institution’s courses on small business entrepreneurship, ancestral languages, the history of federal policy impacting Native Americans, and much more. Bigfoot Indian Tacos sold frybread loaded with beans, veggies, cheese, and other toppings. Soldadera offered handmade jewelry “for freedom fighters, lovers, and creators,” and shared the stories of Aztec gods and goddesses inspiring certain pieces. 

Our photographer Amir Aziz was on hand to photograph this momentous event and gathering.

The Mills College Biennial Pow Wow was back in person at the East Oakland college campus this past weekend, after a forced hiatus last year due to the pandemic. This year’s pow wow also featured a collaboration with the Indigenous Red Market, a monthly marketplace for Native vendors selling artwork, clothing, and food that’s usually held in Fruitvale. Credit: Amir Aziz
A Native American elder smudges the crowd with sage before the pow wow opening ceremony and dance competition begins. Credit: Amir Aziz
Crowds of families and visitors watch the opening ceremony at the Mills College Pow Wow on Sunday. Credit: Amir Aziz
Joelle Rocha, Silver State Gourd Society Princess, is honored with monetary gifts from the crowd. Credit: Amir Aziz
Prior to the dance, family members assist one another with their attire. Credit: Amir Aziz
Many pow wows feature dance competitions. Here, dancers at the Mills College Pow Wow wear numbers so they can be identified and scored by judges. Credit: Amir Aziz
The Mills College Pow Wow draws Native dancers from all over Northern California. Credit: Amir Aziz
Corrina Gould (Ohlone), a tribal spokesperson for the Confederated Villages of Lisjan and a director of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, closes her eyes in prayer before the pow wow begins. Credit: Amir Aziz
A Native American dancer performs during the Mills College Pow Wow. Credit: Amir Aziz
A group of elders participates in the ceremony during the eighth annual Mills College Pow Wow. Credit: Amir Aziz
Dancers of all ages performed at the Mills College Pow Wow on Sunday. Here a group watches as others perform. Credit: Amir Aziz
Native American drummers perform in a circle during the pow wow at Mills College. Credit: Amir Aziz
The 2022 Mills College Pow Wow also featured the Indigenous Red Market, a monthly marketplace featuring Native vendors that usually takes place in Fruitvale. Credit: Amir Aziz
All members of the public are welcome at the Mills College Pow Wow. Hundreds enjoyed the sunny weather at this year’s event, which also featured vendors from the Indigenous Red Market. Credit: Amir Aziz
Attendees stand in line for food from Bigfoot Indian Tacos, one of the Native vendors on hand at the eighth annual Mill College Pow Wow, which returned after a hiatus last year. Credit: Amir Aziz
Actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather (middle) shakes hands with elders at the Mills College Pow Wow. Littlefeather is best known for declining the Best Actor award on behalf of Marlon Brando for his role in The Godfather at the 45th Academy Awards in 1973. Credit: Amir Aziz
A young dancer has her picture taken at the eighth annual Mills College Pow Wow. Credit: Amir Aziz

Amir Aziz is a photographer and videographer from Oakland, California. Using photography as his primary medium, Amir documents life and times in his community and the rapid changes in his environment. He's covered music events and social justice movements in the U.S. and abroad for local and international publications. Before shelter-in-place, he traveled to over 10 countries producing multimedia projects juxtaposing the experiences of locals elsewhere to those in his hometown of Oakland. Amir hopes to continue to bridge the gap between African diaspora communities and oppressed groups in the world through multimedia storytelling.

Tasneem Raja is the Editor-in-Chief of The Oaklandside. A pioneer in data journalism and local nonprofit news startups, she co-founded The Tyler Loop, a nationally recognized community news platform in East Texas. She was a senior editor at NPR's Code Switch and at Mother Jones, where the team she led helped build the first-ever database of mass shootings in America. She started her career as features reporter at The Chicago Reader and The Philadelphia Weekly, and lives in Oakland with her husband and daughter.