In a celebration of traditions, students and community members were able to experience authentic Native American culture at the annual University of Wisconsin Spring Powwow this weekend.
The event was hosted this weekend by Wunk Sheek, a UW Native American student organization, and featured performances by several members of local Native American tribes.
Nichole Boyd, the student services coordinator at the UW Center for Academic Affairs and one of the planners for this year’s powwow, said a lot of effort was put into ensuring that local tribes in Wisconsin would be invited and able to attend.
The head staff of the event is composed of members of the attending tribes and includes a head man, head lady, head veteran or spiritual leader, color guard, arena director, emcee, host drum and invited drum, Boyd said.
Many institutions at UW help coordinate the annual powwow, Boyd said.
“This is about the 44th year of the Spring Powwow at the UW,” Boyd said. “It used to be coordinated by the Native American student org…[but] my department decided that it should be the university’s responsibility to take on the logistical tasks of planning a powwow.”
Boyd said there was an achievement gap regarding academic success when the student organization was solely responsible for coordinating the event.
By taking over the basics of the event planning, Boyd said her department hoped to take pressure off the students. The students are still heavily involved in the planning, but now the department handles all of the logistical tasks, she said.
Dylan Jennings, Wunk Sheek former president, said the logistical tasks include writing grants and money requests, contacting numerous department heads and staff and finalizing location, food and vendors.
“They really did a lot and … people will see all of this work and how positive of an event the powwow is,” Jennings said.
The event seeks to educate the greater population about Native American powwow culture, Jennings said. At the event, vendors sold hand-made art and traditional foods, he said.
This event is important to Madison’s historic culture and powwows are meant to generate healing and positivity through dancing, traditional ceremonial items and the native languages being spoken, Boyd said.
“This is something the students take great pride in,” Boyd said. “It’s a chance for them to bring their family down to their university and an opportunity to share the UW community with the Native American community.”
Jennings said events like this force people to learn and internalize different aspects of another culture.
When people attend the event, stereotypes and misconceptions about native people are diminished upon sitting in the crowd and learning from the experience, Jennings said.
“It has always been very important to make the greater campus and community aware of the existence and strength of our Native peoples and our culture,” Jennings said.