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10 Great Photos from California Native American Day

Native American Day in California saw stirring speeches, displays of cultural pride, and drew hundreds of participants. The September 25 event was held in front of the capitol in Sacramento and included everyone from elders to veterans to youth and dance groups.

RELATED: California Native American Day Celebrates Cultural Pride and Tribal Partnerships

Below are photos of the key players and performers, showing the best of what everyone agreed was a great day.

All photos by Paula Schultz

California has the largest Native population with 109 federally recognized tribes who collectively wield considerable political, social and economic power. Every September, flags of tribal nations are proudly displayed on the steps of California's State Capitol as part of Native American Day festivities.

Delbert Davis, a member of Tule River Veterans Color Guard and Native Americans Veterans Post 1987, smudges himself with sage before the opening prayer at Native American Day ceremonies.

Masters of Ceremonies for Native American Day were San Manuel Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena and Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Tribal Council Member Dennis Hendricks. Both tribes operate successful gaming operations that employ thousands in the industry. Chairwoman Valbuena was just inducted into the American Gaming Association's Hall of Fame. Valbuena is wearing the "Warrior Women" scarf by Bethany Yellowtail, a Crow/Northern Cheyenne designer who is a rising star in international fashion.

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This year's Native American Day paid special tribute to Native veterans. Rincon Tribal Chairman Bo Mazzetti, a Navy veteran, thanked Commander Stan Santos of the Tule River Color Guard. Mazzetti presented custom-made lapel pins during ceremonies where all veterans were acknowledged and thanked for their service. The Blood River Drum sang a Warrior's Song to honor veterans.

For the first time during Native American Day, Native veterans were honored and thanked in a special ceremony for their sacrifices and service. Tule River Veterans Color Guard and the Native American Veterans Post 1987 posted the colors and were among all the veterans who were honored.

Carrying on cultural traditions is important to Native peoples of California. Several youth dance groups were featured throughout Native American Day including the Karuk Youth Dancers who hail from Northern California. Traditional songs and dances are taught by mentors. The Karuk Youth Dancers performed several times during the day's events.

Children in the Karuk Youth Dance group begin learning traditional songs and dances at an early age and are taught proper cultural protocols. The Karuk Tribe mentors members of the dance group to carry on sacred teachings, songs and dances.

San Pasqual Vice Chairwoman Victoria Diaz enters the arena during the procession of tribal leaders at Native American Day. Diaz was chairman of the San Pasqual Gaming Commission and serves on board of directors for the San Luis Rey Indian Water Authority.

Near the close of Native American Day, youth dance groups were given special recognition and thanks for their performances and songs throughout the festivities. The Karuk Youth Dancers traveled from their homelands in Northern California's redwood forest to share their culture. Two youth dance groups from Kashia Pomo and Shingle Springs requested that no photos or video be taken out of respect for the sacredness of the songs and dances.

On behalf of California tribes, Karuk Chairman Russell "Buster" Attebery accepts Gov. Jerry Brown's proclamation on California Native American Day from the Governor's Tribal Advisor Cynthia Gomez, Tule River Yokut. The governor's proclamation said "the success of tribal businesses and the rise of tribal members in all walks of life today stand as testament to the resilience and enduring spirit of our Native peoples."