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Q&A: Butte College hosts its first Big Time gathering to celebrate Native students

Supaman performs a fancy dance at Butte's Big Time Celebration.
Butte College
Supaman performs a fancy dance at Butte's Big Time Celebration.

Butte College held its first Big Time celebration last week to honor tribal culture. The event featured feather dancers, songs, and vendors. It also featured a performance by Apsaalooke Nation rapper, multi-instrumentalists and fancy dancer Supaman.

Frankie Medrano, Native American retention specialist at Butte College and a member of the Maidu tribe, helped organize the event. He spoke with NSPR about the festivities and the significance.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

On what a Big Time celebration entails

It's really important that a lot of people know why we call it a Big Time because it's not a powwow exactly. The reason we call it a Big Time is because we have a lot of California feather dancers with our own actual dance society that is very unique to northern and central California. So that's why we call it a Big Time to honor that we are in California. We are California Natives.

So we have a lot of contemporary twists to it in this day and age, which is a good thing since historically, we weren't allowed to practice a lot of these dances or songs. We're trying to really work with a lot of our dance crews to revitalize a lot of our dances. So this is a good time for the inter-tribal community to come together and practice what we have since time immemorial.

Jewelry on sale at the Big Time celebration vendor booths.
Butte College
Jewelry on sale at the Big Time celebration vendor booths.

On the festivities at this year’s event

We have the dance crews, we have Supaman coming to perform. I know a lot of youth, and a lot of people in the community look up to him.

We have over 50 vendors that came, all Indigenous, and Native vendors with their arts and crafts and clothing, and good medicine.

On the significance of the celebration

The main reason this celebration and Big Time is important is to bring awareness to our tribal communities and teach a lot of non-native people who don't know, or want to learn about Native culture, to come and take it in.

One of the big reasons for my purposes at Butte College as a Native American retention specialist is bringing awareness to the campus. That we have Native students here, we want to acknowledge them, and we want to make them feel comfortable and welcomed, and know that they have a space here on campus. Whether it's the Native American Center, whether they go to the library, whether they go to any of the buildings on campus, they belong at a college

It's important that we put these events on so that Native people have a place at these institutions. Historically, these institutions were used to eradicate us, to 'beat the native' out of you. And now we're trying to flip the script, because we have Native People who work here, and make it a welcoming environment for Native students so they can thrive in education.

Frankie Medrano speaks in front of a crowd at the Big Time Celebration.
Butte College
Frankie Medrano speaks in front of a crowd at the Big Time Celebration.

Alec Stutson grew up in Colorado and graduated from the University of Missouri with degrees in Radio Journalism, 20th/21st Century Literature, and a minor in Film Studies. He is a huge podcast junkie, as well as a movie nerd and musician.