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Pow wow brings cultures and communities together

Hundreds of people filtered in and out of McGuirk Arena on Saturday to watch and participate in the celebration of Native American culture at Central Michigan University’s 28th annual “Celebrating Life” pow wow.

Pow wows are hosted across the year throughout the continent. They are intended to bring people together to celebrate the Native American community and demonstrate the diversity of cultures in different tribes. Venders from across the country sold clothing, soaps and crafts that showcased their tribe’s culture, while dancers and drummers in full regalia performed for the crowds. While there were times where all attendees danced together at the pow wow, hundreds of dancers and drummers also competed for prizes.

Yvonne Moore of the Ojibwa Odawa tribe established CMU’s pow wow nearly three decades ago, and said the event raises awareness between Native Americans and the local community.

“It’s important that students honor our ancestors by recognizing us,” Moore said. “Every student should be aware that if this land had not been gifted, they would not be here.”

The doors opened at 11 a.m., but the event truly kicked of with the first Grand Entry ceremony at 1 p.m.

Five drum groups circled around the edges of arena floor; the Spotted Eagle, Crazy Spirit, Anishinaabe Nation, Midnight Express and the host drum group, the Boyz. As the Grand Entry began, the Boyz pounded on their drums, filling the arena with beats and chants filled with passion.

All attendees stood to observe Head Veteran, George Martin, carry the Eagle Staff and lead all pow wow participants around the floor. Flag bearers and dancers of all ages danced behind him and were dressed in regalia that varied from earth tone colors to vibrant feather displays.

The rest of the day was filled with contests and performances featuring men and women in different age groups and doing different styles of dance, drum and song. After intertribal dances, which are open for all pow wow attendees, the Tiny Tot dance contest was held for children under 5 years old.

Youth competed until 5 p.m., when a dinner break place for participants while many attendees browsed the vendors.

Vendors sold traditional crafts and merchandise that from tribes across the nation. Goods ranged from precious energy stones to dream catchers to handmade jewelry, vases and soaps.

One vendor, Ms. Margo from the Saginaw Chippewa tribe sold handmade drums and dreamcatchers. In her work she uses spiders to represent Asibikaashi, or spider woman, who she said idea for dream catchers originates from.

A second Grand Entry began at 7 p.m., which was followed by the pow wow’s adult contests that featured the different regalia and dance styles unique to their specific tribe.

“Whenever I’m going through a rough time, I just go to dance and sing,” said Matthew Oshkabewsisens, a member of the Odawa tribe from Ontario who did a Northern Traditional dance. “It helps bring my spirit back up.”

Oshkabewsisens said dancing carries a lot of spiritual energy for his tribe and is significant for him because of its healing power.

Brennah Wahweoten, of the Prairie Band Potawatomi tribe in Mayetta, Kansas, partook in the Fancy dress dance and the traditional women’s dance. She said she hopes her performance showcased her culture to those in other tribes, as well as non-native attendees.

“This is a way of life,” Wahweoten said. “Its competitive and it’s something I take seriously, and they should as well.”

This was the first time coming to the Pow Wow for CMU freshmen students Hayley Baerwalde and Lily Soule.

They came because as CMU Chippewas, they wanted to learn more about Native American traditions. They agreed in admiration for the dances and the music at the event and felt watching coming to the pow wow enhanced their understanding of the university’s name.

“I think it’s important at a school using the Chippewa name to understand the Native American culture,” Baerwalde said. ”It’s important to take a second, step back, and appreciate who they are, their cultures and (everything) they do.”