Event organizer

Spring powwow organizer hopes to educate Indigenous people on campus | VTX

What is a powwow?

“You’ll get a different answer depending on who you ask and what it means to them personally, but the best way to describe it, at least for tribal communities, is there’s obviously this cultural component to transmission. of tradition – having young people come and be a part of it and see the tradition passed on and carried out – but it’s also like a big family reunion or a homecoming. I know that when I get home I see my aunts and my cousins ​​at the powwow, and it may be one of the few times of the year that I see them. So with extended family and members of the extended tribal community, it definitely has the feeling of a family reunion, but with that cultural component as well.

What usually happens at a powwow?

“It usually opens with something called a grand entrance and a display of flags. We have a lot of veterans in Indigenous communities. Despite their history with militarization and colonialism, they participate in a greater proportion higher than any other ethnic group, so there is a strong tribute to veterans at powwows, the Eagle Staff always comes out first at a powwow, which may not be the same than other Western ceremonies where the American flag comes out first, but those nations were here before the American flag came in. Then you have different categories of inter-tribal dancing and drumming and singing, of course. There are usually food vendors and Arts and Crafts that sell items made by Aboriginal people.

At Virginia Tech, we typically hold our powwow from noon to 5 p.m. with an intermission at 2 or 2:30 p.m. to allow people to take a break and eat. Although it starts at noon, it is an event that comes and goes.”

How can people participate in the Virginia Tech Pow Wow?

“As far as the Aboriginal community, whether on campus or off campus, we love having dancers come and participate. We’ve had dancers from tribes in Virginia, tribes in North Carolina, and even further afield. It’s amazing how far some people will travel to be able to dance and share their culture. We also have people present to introduce themselves and support. A lot of tribal leaders have come forward to support us just to build that relationship with the campus, which is really important to us.

For non-native customers, just showing up as a participant is great. It’s completely open to the public, and what’s great is that we always have emcees who do a great job of cultural education during the event. They don’t just call out the dances they let you know a bit of the history of each dance and where it came from what the people’s badges mean so you get a lot of cultural education while you are at an event.”

What do you hope attendees take away from the powwow?

“I hope they realize there is an Indigenous presence, albeit small, on the Virginia Tech campus. We have aboriginal students. We have native faculty and staff. They are citizens of tribal nations. They are not always identifiable by their race or ethnic origin, but this citizenship is a very important element.

One thing that the student population regularly struggles with, and this comes out of my research, is this narrative of erasure, where most of our non-Indigenous society has this perception that Indigenous people no longer exist. I think the erasure narrative is both a failure of K-12 education and even the education that people often receive in college. You could say that American history begins with Native history, but many Native American history courses are optional rather than required. Students must therefore choose to follow them.

The other thing that fuels this false narrative is that there isn’t a lot of representation in popular culture. Native people aren’t often reflected in movies and media, and when they are, it’s often in very stereotypical and unevolved ways. As if people still live in a strictly traditional way, which many of them do not. So while attendees will show up in traditional badges on Saturday, those badges are reserved for the ceremony. Outside of the ceremony, most will be wearing jeans and t-shirts, and they’ll look a lot like you.

So just being aware of the presence of Aboriginal people in our community is really important.