The Lumberjack

Big Time inspires youth in big ways

The Tolowa Nation Dancers pose near the Redwood Bowl at Humboldt State University on April 7. Photo by Garrett Goodnight.

The Indian Tribal and Educational Personnel Program (ITEPP) hosted their 11th Annual California Indian Big Time and Social Gathering event on April 7.

Hundreds of people gathered from across California to celebrate and express their cultural heritage inside Humboldt State University’s West Gym.

Out of those hundreds of people, in particular, were a lot of youth in attendance.

One of the youth who attended the event was Harmony Taylor. Taylor is 8 years old, and has been dancing for four years.

Taylor looks forward to attending Big Time every year.

“I like to dance with the girls I grew up with,” Taylor said. “I only get to see those friends about two or three times a year.”

Harmony Taylor smiles near the West gym at Humboldt State on April 7. Photo by Garrett Goodnight.

Cutcha Risling Baldy, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of Native American Studies at HSU, and discussed how Big Time helps inform and empower the youth.

“It is important because we get to show our next generations that their culture is real and a part of their everyday lives,” Risling Baldy said.

Arya Mettier, Ph.D., Risling Baldy’s daughter, was also in attendance, and partook in the Women’s Coming of Age demonstration that her mom and many others have been working to revitalize.

“There’s a lot of people, and you can get a lot of stuff,” Mettier said. “I get to see a lot of different cultures.”

Sammy and Jon Luke Gensaw are two brothers who have also been inspired by this event ever since they can remember.

“When I was younger, this was a go-to thing,” Jon Luke said. “I would see people that I haven’t seen all year.”

The Gensaw brothers created their own non-profit organization, the Ancestral Guard. Through the Ancestral Guard, the Gensaw brothers are able to make direct action on a local and global scale. They recently returned from visiting and speaking at Yale University.

There were over 60 vendors in attendance along with live demonstrations, a food stand and a catering food truck Los Giles.

One of the highlights was by far the food. The popular choices were fry bread and Indian tacos, with a line wrapping around the building all day long.

A restorative vendor at the event was the Indigenous California Language Survival booth. One of the organizers of this booth was HSU assistant professor in Native American Studies, Kayla Begay, Ph.D.

At this booth, kids were encouraged to share a word in a native language to win a prize.

“Even if you’ve never heard a native language before, we encourage the children to learn today,” Begay said.

Humboldt State ITEPP alum Briannon Fraley explained that Big Time gives her children the opportunity to see other cultural representations.

“Living in a multicultural society, your identity gets lost, and it’s hard to engage,” Fraley said. “This event instills pride and promotes cultural identity.”