The United states is home to approximately 5.2 million Native American people according to 2010 census and Oregon has more than 70,000 of those. In Southern Oregon, Chinook, Coquille, Umpqua, Chetco, Tututni, Tolowa, Takelma, Klamath, Modoc, Northern Paiute, and Shoshone all call Southern Oregon their home. This weekend representatives from those tribes met in the McNeil gymnasium to celebrate their heritage.
Powwows are Native American celebrations that includes feasting, singing, and dancing. Thousands of powwows happen across the nation, and are considered a cornerstone of the Native American community. The Southern Oregon University Powwow has been held for the past 23 years and is a two day event put on by the Native American Student Union (NASU) that brings tribes from across the state together to share tradition.
The halls of the McNeil Pavilion were filled with stands selling traditional, and modern Native American wear, as well as crafts and food. The main event was held inside the gymnasium, and featured Native song and dance from each of the tribes. At 12:30 the Powwow began with a prayer spoken by a local elder. The message was about letting the creator into our hearts and minds, also letting him guide us through our life. The prayer was followed by an introduction of the veterans who were in attendance, and then a few tribe songs where it was encouraged that everyone dance.
Following the tribe dances was more individual based prepared dances. Participants in the dances took pride in their wear, one performer Vendella stated “the dances and the wear are about heritage, they bring us together.” The Powwow boasted over twenty performers from all age groups, and attracted a large crowd of both students as well as community members.
Spectator Jace Hinesley remarked, “It looked like there was quite a spectacle going on in the gym, so I checked it out. I’m really glad I did, I’m learning a lot and the dances are really entertaining.”
The Southern Oregon University Powwow is scheduled to happen again next year and the Native American Student Union wants it to grow in numbers. For any information about local Powwows the NASU can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Feature image courtesy of Jordan Boyd at http://jbgraphicarts.weebly.com/