November is Native American history month, the perfect time to recognize the significant contributions the first Americans made to this country. If you’re not sure how to celebrate, or just want more ideas, these are the best ways to celebrate Native American heritage right here in Orange County.
Southern California Indian Center’s 44th Annual Pow Wow
Orange County Fair Grounds
88 Fair Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Price: $3 for adults/$2 for seniors/free for children younger than 12/$5 parking
This Nov. 17 event is a major fundraiser for the Southern California Indian Center, which has promoted the social and economic welfare of American Indians, Native Alaskan and Native Hawaiian people in the Orange County area for more than 40 years. The center provides emergency food and shelter, education, family support, workforce development and cultural activities to the region. Beyond donating to a good cause, the pow wow is a whole lot of fun. The all-day affair includes entertainment, arts and crafts, food and areas for children.
Matoska Trading Company
123 N. Glassell
Orange, CA 92866
Since Brent and Nancy Schellhase established this store in 1991, it has grown to include a thriving national online business specializing in Native American wares. This store itself recently moved to a new location in Old Town Orange’s circle. Come here for collectible items, crafts, books, feathers and leather. Customers are especially enthusiastic about the store’s selection of beads and scented soaps. While you’re shopping, talk with the owners about Native American history, culture and art. These guys are involved with local Native American cultural events all year around. Because the store is family run, it’s a good idea to call ahead if you’re coming from far away. Hours of operation vary.
Museum Of The First People At Len Wood’s Indian Territory Gallery
American Indian Art Gallery
305 North Coast Highway, Suite D
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Open more than 40 years, this Native American art gallery in Laguna Beach maintains a museum that showcases owner Len Wood’s private collection of Native American artwork. Visitors often enjoy impromptu personal tours from Wood himself. In addition, the gallery sells a wide variety of Native American art, rugs, blankets, kachina dolls and pottery, both on the premises and online. Collectors rave about the gallery’s selection of Navajo rugs and pottery by the world-renowned artist Maria Martinez. The store also buys Native American art and provides assessments of pieces through email.
420 El Camino Real
Old Towne Tustin, CA 92780
This center for the arts has specialized in Native American handicrafts, in addition to metaphysical and spiritual merchandise, since 2003. Four Crows not only sells these products but also provides the local community with activities and workshops that range from drumming to prayer circles to certification in sacred tarot cards. Especially enticing are the classes in Lakota, the dialect that members of the Sioux nation most commonly speak. Locals also recommend the workshops in finding your own personal animal totem.
Historic Mission San Juan Capistrano
26801 Ortega Highway
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Missions have played a significant role in Native American history. Mission San Juan Capistrano is no exception. The mission oversaw the conversion of 4,639 souls between 1776 and 1847 and is home to the unmarked graves of more than 2,000 former inhabitants, most of them Juaneño Indians. The mission reopened its Native American Museum and Interpretive Room this fall after refurbishments. Stop in to see interactive exhibits and artifacts or to attend the Native American basket weaving classes on the first and third Wednesday of each month. While you’re here, don’t forget to visit Serra’s Chapel, the oldest building that’s still in use in California.
Elle Toussi is a freelance writer covering all things Orange County. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.