Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance Holds First NU Pow Wow

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Four years ago, timber from Menominee Tribal Enterprises, an Indigenous owned and operated company, was used to build the Welsh-Ryan Arena basketball court. The Native American and Native American Student Alliance made history in this woods on Saturday, hosting Northwestern’s first student-organized powwow.

A powwow is a celebration held by many Native American and Native communities where Natives and non-Natives connect over dancing, food, and more.

Over 200 people attended the event, including Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, faculty, families, local residents and students from other universities. Marin “Mark” Denning, who is from the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, served as emcee and Mark LaRoque, who is Ojibwe, acted as the arena manager for the event.

Medill sophomore and former Daily editorial contributor Kadin Mills, who is Ojibwe from Keweenaw Bay and head of NAISA’s communications committee, said his younger sister, who is non-Indigenous, attended the event with him. Mills and her sister danced hand-in-hand to drums from local bands like RedLine, Little Priest Singers and the Indian community school drummer, the ICS Eagle Singers.

“Being… with so many of our teachers and mentors and community members is truly a wonderful experience, because it’s the kind of community that we… haven’t been in community with before,” Mills said.

Several Native American and Native vendors sold wares including beechwood bowls, jewelry, and handmade implements.

Many participants wore their own regalia, that is, clothing worn for powwows and other special dances of native culture. Regalia is often personalized with personal, family and traditional items.

In light of the event’s proximity to Mother’s Day and National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Awareness Day, NAISA chose the theme “Honoring Matriarchy,” according to a statement from the NAISA Communications Committee. .

Indigenous and Native women face disproportionately high rates of homicide and sex trafficking, according to data from the Association on American Indian Affairs. NAISA dedicated the powwow to these missing and murdered women, and the women in their lives, the group said in a statement to The Daily.

The event also highlighted the contributions of Indigenous women on campus, such as Medill Professor Patty Loew, Associate Director of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research Pamala Silas, SESP Professor Megan Bang, and Director of Native American and Indigenous Affairs Jasmine Gunneau.

“In the indigenous cultures of Turtle Island, women are revered as givers of life,” the statement read. “We think it’s only fitting that we dedicate our space to honoring these significant figures in our lives.”

Generations of NAISA students have come together to say goodbye to Loew, who leave NU Next year. CNAIR and Indigenous faculty honored Loew with a purple and red eagle feather.

Adrian Cornelius, a member of the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin, came to the NAISA powwow after seeing the ad on Facebook. His insignia featured designs with turtles and trees, representing his affiliation with the Turtle Clan and Oneida respectively.

Cornelius joined other participants in the grass dance, one of the special dance categories featured in the second half of the powwow. Principal dancer Josee Starr led the Jingle Dress Dance, a dance of prayer and medicine intended to heal the afflicted.

At the time of the powwow, Cornelius said he had experienced family difficulties. He said coming to the powwow was an opportunity to pray for a change in his own life and those around him.

“I have a lot on my mind, and I was taught that when we pray, we have our feathers and we have this (dance) circle,” Cornelius said. “Our feathers gather (our prayers) and they send that to the Creator through the drum as the drum plays.”

Getting together with other natives was special for Isabella Twocrow, SESP Junior and Co-Chair of NAISA, who is Oglala Lakota and a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Twocrow said she was able to speak to other Lakota natives and greeted her in her own language.

Twocrow said one of his favorite parts of the event was the NAISA dance, where generations of NAISA students came together in the field. Twocrow said she saw alumni she recognized from her freshman year at NU, when there were only three or four members in the group.

“It just shows the legacy of everyone who came before us and everyone who will come after us,” Twocrow said. “This work has been going on for so long, and it will continue for so long.”

Athena GoingSnake, a first-year SESP student and NAISA historian, who is Muscogee Creek and a member of the Cherokee Nation, said experiences like the anti-indigenous vandalism at Le Rocher in November were difficult to deal with during his first year on campus. For GoingSnake, Saturday’s powwow was an example of NAISA’s resilience.

“Launching this Pow Wow shows us reclaiming our power from everything we’ve lost from The Rock,” GoingSnake said.

Mills said Loew once told him that often, Indigenous people are defined by what happens to them. But Mills said that shouldn’t be how native people are viewed.

“Right now, it’s really important to remember that we’re not defined by what anyone had to say in November,” Mills said. “We define ourselves now.”

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @KatrinaPham_

Related stories:

Not Invisible: Students Create Solidarity and Community in NAISA

The Ripple: “No Wiindigo economy”: Student activism and the struggle to divest from fossil fuels

NAISA Issues Demands to Northwestern Following Anti-Indigenous Vandalism at The Rock

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