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Eighth annual IU Powwow this weekend celebrates Native American culture


Native American dancers finish the first session of dancing April 7, 2018, at the IU 7th Annual Traditional Powwow in Dunn Meadow. Dancers and audience members participated in festivities throughout the day. Matt Begala

Walk by Dunn Meadow on Saturday and you may hear the melodies of powwow singers or see dancers moving about in Native American dance clothing.

A social dancing event, IU’s eighth annual Traditional Powwow will take place 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday in Dunn Meadow. The free daylong powwow, organized by the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center, will highlight Native American culture through music, food and a variety of craft vendors.

“The most important aspect of our mission here at the center is to build and foster community,” FNECC Program Assistant Heather Williams said. “And the powwow is very much like a family reunion in that native people gather and laugh and catch up and have fun together. It’s the epitome of community.”

The powwow also displays contemporary Native American culture and identity, FNECC Director Nicky Belle said.

“So many people learn about and talk about native people and tribes as something in the past, something that doesn’t exist anymore,” he said.

This is not the case, he said.

“What you see now are family traditions, tribal traditions, customs that have been passed down for generations and generations,” he said. “And this is what contemporary practice, culture, identity and tradition look like.”

Belle said people should come take part in the day and be ready to learn something new and make new friends while keeping powwow etiquette in mind.

“We encourage people to ask questions, to partake in what’s going on,” he said. “But also to not assume a level of comfort that is disrespectful. To approach everything with a degree of respect and acknowledge that there is something to learn here.”

Leading up to the powwow, Adrian Stevens and Sean Snyder will speak Thursday on campus about their experiences as a Two-Spirit Native American couple.

“Two spirit is an umbrella term to encompass all identities outside the gender binary,” Williams said.

The couple started dancing together at powwows during the Sweetheart Dance, a dance that is commonly done between males and females, breaking common powwow tradition.

Here is a line-up of events at Saturday’s powwow:

10 a.m.

Doors open at 10 a.m., and WonderLab Museum will perform a science experiment for children in attendance. Vendors also open their booths at this time, selling items such as handmade jewelry, clothing and crafts.

“The target audience for these booths isn’t always non-native people,” Williams said. “But what I think non-native people can gain from that is the chance to speak with the artist one-on-one and ask questions about their trade or their craft and see what their story is.”

11 a.m.

The Indiana Raptor Center, a hospital in Nashville, Indiana, for birds of prey such as hawks and eagles, will bring some of its birds for a live raptor show from 11 a.m. to noon.


Attendees can enjoy food at the event during the lunch break from noon to 1 p.m. A family-owned taco stand called “Frybread and Chill” will be selling Native American tacos on fry bread, Williams said.

1 p.m.

The Afternoon Grand Entry will begin at 1 p.m., followed by hours of music – performed by singers and dancers – from across the country.

During this time, a special dance will honor Williams, since it will be her last powwow while working for the university.

“The grass dance special is being done in honor of Heather’s work and her time and her contribution,” Belle said. “It gives people an opportunity to participate in this honoring for Heather.”

All grass dancers present will be invited to take part in the special, Williams said.

“My favorite style of dance is grass dancing,” she said.

5 p.m.

A group from the Indiana School of Polynesian Arts, Indy Hula, will perform at 5 p.m., followed by a dinner break.

Belle said it’s important to invite other indigenous groups from North America to perform at the powwow to give dancers the opportunity to come together and learn from one another.

“A powwow is a social dancing event,” he said. “It’s an event where people from native and indigenous communities across the country come together to celebrate and participate in aspects of social dance culture. So it’s very appropriate to include other indigenous dance groups from North America.”

7 p.m.

Another Grand Entry will take place in the evening, as per typical powwow fashion, Williams said.

This will be followed by another session of music and dancing before the Retiring of Flags near 10 p.m., the powwow’s official closure.

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