Campus Life Spotlight: Spring 2011 Powwow

Posted on May 3, 2011

Campus powwow provides tradition, learning, and community.

On April 16th, the UW-Superior campus and Circle of Native Nations held the 22nd annual spring powwow in Wessman Arena. The powwow, which lasted all afternoon and into the evening, is a campus and community tradition that many UWS students, faculty, staff, and Superior community members enjoy every year.

Each spring, several of the neighboring first nations from northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan come together at UWS to host this large powwow. Powwows are a Native American gathering and social event that allows for celebration, dancing, and socializing. The powwow included two Grand Entries, several different hosted drums, and a variety of themed dances.

Gary Johnson, Director of First Nation Studies and advisor to the Circle of Native Nations student organization on campus, shared that over 700 people were in attendance at the powwow throughout the day. Circle of Native Nations is the student organization on campus responsible for bringing the powwow together each spring. Over 25 students were involved in planning and facilitating the powwow from invitations to concessions and vendor booths to dressing rooms.

Johnson shared that the annual powwow gets bigger and better each year. This year, about a dozen vendors were present to sell handmade jewelry, music CDs, and even fresh maple candy. There were games for children to play and learn about Native culture, as well as a large feast hosted midway through the event.

Powwows are just one component of helping UWS Native American students celebrate their culture and help teach others about Native history. Atkinson, Morten, and Sue (1979) developed a five stage minority identity development model to help explain how non-majority students learn about their own culture and develop a sense of self as a minority. Following the first and second stages of conformity to majority culture and dissonance with minority culture, Native American students can enter the third stage of resistance and immersion. Atkinson, et al share that within this stage is when minority students get heavily involved and invested in cultural student organizations and events, such as the powwow. Through the First Nations Center to the First Nations courses, as well as Circle of Native Nations, the UW-Superior campus offers many opportunities for Native and non-Native students to immerse themselves in the culture and history of the local nations and tribes.

Tammy Fanning, Assistant to the Dean of Students, brought her son David along to this year's powwow. "I value diversity and want him to learn and understand the Native culture and truth of the history" Fanning shares. David, age 7, spends a lot of time reading about Native American culture and history, so it was a very valuable event for him to attend with mom.

Youngsters weren't the only folks in attendance at the powwow. Dr. Monica Roth Day, Assistant Professor of Social Work, and Mickey Fitch, Assistant Director of Residence Life enjoyed the powwow together as well. Roth Day and Fitch both saw many of the students they work with observing and participating in the powwow activities, from joining in dances as well as asking questions of CNN members. "It is really great to see residence hall students and social work students coming out on a Saturday afternoon to learn more about the tribal culture and history. I really liked seeing majority students transition from hesitation at first to celebration and openness by the end of the event-that teaching and learning is what we are all about at UWS", Fitch said.

Each year, Office of Multicultural Affairs does an excellent job of promoting the powwow, as well as offering etiquette information to newcomers. There is no doubt that efforts like the powwow are key components to the success of Inclusive Excellence at UW-Superior. Interested in getting more involved with Circle of Native Nations? Contact Gary Johnson for more information.

Atkinson, D., Morten, G., and Sue, D. W. Counseling American Minorities: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Dubuque, Iowa: Brown Company, 1979.

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Photo © 2011 Ivy Vainio