UI Native American Student Center hosts annual powwow
Most University of Idaho students know Native American tribes lived in North America long before European colonization, but what some may not realize is that those people and their culture are still here.
The Vandal Nation Drum Group, one of the few Native American college student drum and singing groups in the region, will perform.
UI student Shirley Guzman said the powwow takes more than half a year of planning.
“We have mass meetings with the other Native American students throughout the year to work together on how we want to do things and everyone has to be involved in some way,” Guzman said. “Part of our scholarship requirements is to help with the powwow. We’re assigned many different jobs to make sure it is a success.”
The event is inter-tribal, Guzman said. It includes students and community members from various tribes around the area and from across the country, as well as non-natives. Powwow attendees will get to watch competitions of different traditional dance styles. People come from as far away as Alaska and Minnesota, Guzman said.
Guzman said one of best parts of the powwow is seeing the diversity among
the performers and audience members.
“It’s great seeing all of the people from different tribes and reservations come to visit our powwow,” she said. “I love watching the different dances. Everyone is happy to be together to keep the traditions alive.”
Everyone is welcome at the powwow regardless of background, Guzman said.
However, it is important for attendees to understand powwow etiquette, said UI student Josh Begay. He said proper powwow conduct is about being respectful.
“Always ask for permission before photographing someone in their regalia or is dancing,” Begay said.
He said the people involved in the powwow view the various dress and dances as sacred and regalia are not to be confused as costumes.
People should stand up for the grand entry out of respect for the dancers and listen to the master of ceremonies, Begay said. Listening to the emcee can save first-time attendees from a lot of confusion, because he or she will announce when behaviors, such as using electronics, is off limits or when a dance is about to start. Powwows are meant to be positive, family friendly gatherings, he said, so alcohol is prohibited.
Guzman said students who have never been to a powwow before will have a new, but fun experience.
“Part of it is serious, but it is also fun,” she said. “There are things you shouldn’t do at certain times, but for the most part it’s just a time to enjoy with others. It will definitely be something different and new, but I think it will be amazing to go to.”
Show respect, refrain from negative thoughts or comments and do not enter with a prejudiced mind, Guzman said. UI students are encouraged to attend the powwow so they can enjoy and learn about the culture of their Native American neighbors.
Shannon Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org