In 1930 Al Fred Kitchen was sent from his Red Bluff, Calif., home to live and attend classes at the Stewart Indian School south of Carson City.
Saturday, he was one of many former students who returned to Stewart for the 20th Annual Father's Day Pow-Wow, which continues through 5 p.m. today.
"I've come to about every one," said Kitchen, now 79, as he watched about 150 colorful dancers in the pow-wow's midday grand entry.
Unlike many Indian boarding schools, Stewart was not limited to students from a single tribe or nation and students came from all over the West. Kitchen is of the Maudi Pit River Nation.
And the decision to attend the school wasn't usually the student's.
"Somebody sent me, all right. I'm not really sure who," Kitchen said.
But he said he liked the school, attended church in Carson each week and learned a trade.
"I learned the dairy. After I left in 1941, I did work in dairies for a while, then went to work as a school custodian for 28 1/2 years," he said.
"Stewart wasn't bad, but some thought the food was a little repetitive," he said. "Every Sunday we had pie, raisin pie, every Sunday."
Holding a pow-wow on Father's Day is common because fathers are honored for being leaders, providers and educators of their families, 1968-69 Stewart alumnus Leo Carpenter Jr. explained.
He said pow-wows honoring fathers are a much older tradition than Father's Day, but the celebrations have converged naturally over time.
Carpenter, who was chosen to bear one of the flags in the grand entry, said he puts on his pow-wow costume and dances at events like this on weekends to help preserve the Native American culture.
"It's important that we are making and preserving our regalia, our crafts, our traditions, rather than having it all go into somebody else's museum," Carpenter said.
A logger and member of the Hupa nation from the Hoopa Valley (Calif.) Indian Reservation, Carpenter just earned a bachelor's degree in Native American Studies and plans to have his master's degree in another two years.
"Stewart was a great place to go to school because we came from all over," Carpenter said. "I made friends from Oregon, Utah, Arizona, Idaho and I still see some of them."
In the dance circle, red, white and blue yarns spun out from the costume of Jeremiah Yazzie, 14, of Manteca, Calif., as he turned in a traditional dance. A pattern of American flags covered the shoulders of the regalia made by his mother, Lorraine Avila.
"I made it that way because I'm a U.S. Army veteran," Avila explained. "I've got all five of my children here to dance and I made a costume for each of them."
Jeremiah, the oldest, has been dancing at pow-wows for five years, he said. Barbara, 6, is the newcomer to dance competitions.
"I didn't go to school at Stewart," said Avila, a Navajo, "but I had an uncle who did.
"This is our second time at the Father's Day Pow Wow. Some people in town invited us here."
The pow-wow is organized by the Stewart Indian School Museum as one of its many cultural and educational events.
Besides the dancing competitions, the pow-wow includes the selection of a Miss Stewart Indian Princess for 2000-2001, craft and food booths and several parades and ceremonies.
What: 20th Annual Father's Day Pow-Wow
Where: Stewart Center, 5366 Snyder Avenue
When: Today 10 a.m.-5 p.m.