On April 2, First Nation Student Association held KU Powwow and Indigenous Dance and Culture Festival at the Lied Center.
The event included Grand Entrance ceremony, powwow dancing and competition, as well as workshops for beading, quillwork, indigenous Visual Art, Handdrum Making, tribal songs as well as moccasin making.
Sierra Twobulls, the treasurer of FNSA, said powwow is a social gathering that brings natives and non-natives together. She said Powwow acts as a festival full of tribal activities to educate people about Indian culture and promote cultural awareness. She also said there are 566 federally recognized tribes, and there are also tribes that are not acknowledged.
“There are plenty of tribes here,” Twobulls said, “We want to showcase who we are. There are so many stereotypes and misconceptions, and we just want to showcase how unique and different we are.”
One of the prairie chicken dancers, Orlando Begay, said he is from Navajo Nation, and they have their ways to conduct themselves as human beings, such as acknowledging other people and not being on the phone when they are with people.
Begay said prairie chicken dancing is to honor the survival of the ancestors. On the other hand, it can represent the mating between the chickens. His family and friends made the outfit he wore for the dance.
“This outfit is very special to me, because it has its energy in this outfit,” Begay said, “So when I dance, I’m dancing with them.”
Unlike a lot of Native Americans, Begay said he was not born into powwow. He learned about powwow and started dancing through attending Haskell Indian Nations University.
“I came across so many different nations and learned about so many tribal nations,” Begay said, “From that, I picked up powwow because that’s what a lot of nations do; that’s what we have in common.”
Facing many stereotypes put on Indians, Begay said he wishes to build better relationships with all people, and it requires efforts from both Native Americans and non-Natives to preserve Indian culture and make progress from that. Powwow this year is held through a different venue, the Lied Center instead of the Ballroom in the Kansas Union. Twobulls said the bigger venue helped to expand the educational aspect of the Powwow and disregard the fear of being limited on space.
“Those who do want to come, they can get a sense of knowledge, background, details…” Twobulls, “I hope this is a good turnout, so that we could use the Lied Center again, just continue that partnership with the Lied Center.”
Begay said dancing feels different because of the change of venue.
“It was more encircled where everyone’s around you,” Begay said, “That’s more like the usual style where having everybody around you. That way the energy is equal. For this one, it’s different for me because the energy is all on one side.”
Some like Vernon Brejcha came just for fun. Brejcha says he has always enjoyed learning about other cultures. He said he loves trying ethnic food, and the Indian Taco he had for lunch was delicious. Other than food, he found the continuation of traditions in children important.
“What was priceless to me was what they called the Toddler Dance,” Berjcha said, “These were just little bitty children… They were so cute, and they were all dressed up. I’m glad tradition is being carried off, and they’re teaching the children.”
Vince Gnojek, a faculty member from the school of music, came with his entire family to learn about Indian dances, music and cultures. He went to two of the workshops about visual art and tribal music. He also raised a question about preserving the traditions.
“It’ll be a shame if we lost a lot of these things (indigenous songs and arts),” Gnojek said, “Some of their songs they don’t do very often, so they’re getting lost. It would be nice if somebody notate it and collect them in books.”
Seeing the auditorium full of people and young children, Gnojek said he hopes the event expands next year for people to learn about Indian culture.
“There are four Indian tribes right in northeast Kansas, and most people don’t even know about them,” Gnojek said, “even though Haskell Univeristy is here, we don’t know that much about Native American culture, so anything like this I think is very valuable.”
Kara Price, a member of FNSA said it is important to promote cultural awareness. She said for her, it is important to volunteer and be able to witness a lot of people learning about her culture. She said Powwow is a great opportunity for people to experience different cultures. Price said her tribe does not live in tippets based on what media depict, and instead her people build mud houses. She said she had experiences with stereotypes and racism, so knowing there are people who are willing to accept the truth instead of believing in the stereotypes.
“It makes me glad that I’m able to share my culture with people, who I didn’t think or would of thought would be interested in learning,” Price said, “All it takes to (understand other cultures and break the stereotypes) is having an open mind.”
Just like Price, TwoBulls thinks Powwow is a great way to promote Indian culture and bring people together. She said because of many misinformed history, the Indian culture is ignored, and people have generalizations about defining a culture by looking at people’s appearance. She said people would think they are still riding horses and live in tippets.
“In actuality, we are just here just like everyone else,” TwoBulls said, “We are still healing from the historical trauma. We’re walking into the world.”