Native Americans celebrate to educate

Native Americans celebrate to educate

By Devontae Weaver

Members of Native American tribes came from across the country to celebrate their heritage and teach about their cultural traditions Friday and Saturday in the Southern Illinois Saluki Pow Wow 2012.

The Native American Student Organization, which was founded at SIUC in 2002, partnered with the American Indian Association of Illinois to prepare an event to celebrate their culture.

The American Indian Association held the first Pow Wow in 1997. The event was almost canceled because of problems during fundraising, but the organizations were able to get money together and present the Pow Wow.


This year, $32,000 was raised for the event by donations from different departments on campus and a few businesses, said Nichole Boyd, president of NASO and a graduate student in history from Chicago.

Boyd said most of the money went to advertising for the Pow Wow, which included posters and fliers put up around campus and Carbondale.

The rest of the money went to renting out the Recreation Center, where the Pow Wow was held, and hiring the dancers and drummers who performed in the event.

She said so much went to advertising because it’s important that the event receives the best turnout it can.

“This is a great opportunity to experience another culture, and these opportunities are not seen on campus very frequently,” she said.

Originally created as celebrations of Native American heritage, pow wows are now used to educate people about the traditions of the Native American people and dispel negative stereotypes about their cultures.

Joseph Wilson, a sophomore from Millstadt studying history and anthropology, and a member of NASO, said some stereotypes include Native Americans’ dress, dance and their housing conditions.


“Each tribe has its own rules and traditions when it comes to the way they dress and dance,” he said.

Vendors at the event provided guests with traditional Native American treats, including Indian tacos. Others sold authentic items such as clothing and jewelry.

“I’m glad I went. I had a great time,” Erica Davis, a freshman from Chicago studying mass communications, said. “I loved looking at all the traditional clothes and jewelry; it was so beautiful.”

Cierra Branch-Harris, a freshman from Zion studying psychology, said she found out about the Pow Wow from one of her professors. She said she’s learning about Native Americans in her class and was excited to experience their culture for herself.

There were multiple grand entries, or ceremonial entrances for the dancers, throughout the weekend. To accommodate for busy weekend schedules, these entries were offered multiple times throughout the event, giving more people the opportunity to experience the dances.

Guests were invited to join in the dance circle following the grand entries.

Wilson said the dancers came from all over the country to perform in the Pow Wow. He said it’s refreshing for people of the Native American culture to come together and indulge in their traditions together.

“Pow wows provide a learning environment for people both in and outside the culture,” he said. “I’d call it an educational celebration.”