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Native American culture to be celebrated at annual pow wow this weekend

This weekend, the Native American Program’s office is hosting its 28th annual “Celebrating Life” pow wow to build cultural unity between the tribal community and student attendees.

Pow wows are hosted frequently throughout the year by different tribes and universities across North America. The Central Michigan University Pow wow will take place from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on March 18 and 19 in McGuirk Arena. Doors open to the public at 11 a.m. and festivities begin at 1 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday. It is intended for different tribes to gather and share their traditions with each other and with people who are interested in learning about Native American culture.

The annual pow wow at CMU will feature dance and drum competitions with prizes of up to $4,000. Usually more than 2,000 spectators attend to watch about 250 performers and visit food and merchandise vendors from tribes across the country.

Entry is $10 for adults and $7 for children. CMU students can attend the pow wow for free with their student I.D.

Hannahville junior Hannah Bartol, chair of the pow wow committee, said most of the 12 Michigan tribes will be represented. There will also be tribes from Canada and various states across the country.

In past years, people from tribes in Oklahoma, New York, Wisconsin and many other states have attended, Bartol said.

“Pow wows are a really good way for natives to gather and connect with each other,” said Alexis Syrette, a student committee member from Mishawaka, Indiana, who’s helping organize the festivities.

Pow wows are different everywhere, and Syrette said CMU hosts one of the best university pow wows, especially in Michigan.

“We’re scattered all over the country,” Syrette said. “Having a pow wow is (an environment) to meet, build relationships and share cultures and tribal traditions with other people too, since not everyone is from the same tribe.”

Bartol said tribes come together at pow wows to share their different languages, practices and variations in ceremonies.

“At CMU, it’s important (to host the pow wow) because it brings cultural awareness to the students who come,” Bartol said. “It allows the Native American community on campus to show their culture and say ‘hey, this is who we are. It’s not the stereotypical things you hear.’”

Syrette said Grand Entries are the opening ceremonies of pow wow events. Veterans will carry flags and eagle staffs as all the dancers make an entrance.

On Saturday, there are two Grand Entries at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Bartol said daytime hours will feature competitions for the younger participants. At night, after the 7 p.m. Grand Entry, the adult competitions will begin.

She said the adult competitions are impressive because the performers are experienced and will be dressed in full regalia.