MSU Pow Wow Celebrates Native Culture

Five to six thousand people attended the festivities on the American Indian Council Pow Wow on April 6-7

The 37th annual MSU American Indian Council Pow Wow brought traditional dancing, drum circles, vibrant colors and music to Bozeman on April 6-7.

The pow wow, one of the largest in the state, attracted tribes from all over Montana, the United States and Canada to meet and celebrate native cultures and traditions.

According to American Indian Council President Ronald Lodgepole, the free event drew more than 800 dancers, the largest number ever reported. He estimated that between five and six thousand people came to the pow wow in total. Many came to partake in the traditional festivities, while others came to observe and learn about Native American culture.

The pow wow began on Friday with a grand entry in which dancers joined together to parade into the arena, dancing and forming a circle around the color guard. The lead dancers, Spur Roundstone of the Northern Cheyenne tribe and Marianne Addison of the Salish-Kootenai tribe, were presented along with the host drum group, Northern Cree of Saddle Lake, Alberta. Grand entries also took place on Saturday.

Dancing competitions were hosted throughout the weekend, allowing dancers of all ages to come together and celebrate their art. Two notable styles displayed at the pow wow included Fancy and Jingle dances.  Fancy dance featured dancers dressed in elaborate multi-colored guard, using elaborate footwork techniques while twisting and spinning their upper bodies. Jingle dance, a traditional dance in which the outfits include rows of jingle cones and bells, is traditionally used to initiate healing and prayer.

Other events over the weekend included A Nation’s Prayer Breakfast, a brunch for MSU Native American Alumni and a “fun run” and half marathon on Saturday morning.

Booths circled the arena, where visitors were encouraged to mingle and learn about native culture, and displayed traditional arts and crafts, many of which were homemade.

According to youth dancer Ontaria Ariwite, “The pow wow is a time to come together and celebrate through dance.” She added that the pow wow is all about tradition and fun, and that it is one of her favorite events throughout the year.

The pow wow was organized by the MSU American Indian Council, and student volunteers put in hundreds of hours fundraising and organizing.

Lodgepole stressed the importance of the AIC in organizing the pow wow; “We’re a student group just like any other,” he said. “But we put on the biggest campus event.”

AIC advisor Francine Willis said her favorite aspect of the pow wow was being part of the Native American culture, and getting to share it with others.

Planning for next year’s pow wow, Lodgepole and Willis said, starts almost immediately.