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Inaugural Powwow

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Inaugural Powwow at University of Redlands

Powwows are gatherings of great traditional and spiritual value to many Native American tribes and have become a vital part of building a strong Native community. As part of the University of Redlands Native Students Programs, a two-day inaugural powwow will be hosted March 29 & 30, 2014 on the Redlands campus Quad, and this special learning experience is free and open to the public.

During the relocation era of the 1950s, the federal government was campaigning to move Native people off reservations and into urban areas. Native people from different tribes around the country began building communities in urban areas and sharing different tribal practices with each other. It was during this time powwows began to spread across tribes and across the country. Many people will travel across the country throughout the year to participate in these gatherings, building extended networks of friends and family.

“A powwow is not a performance,” said Nora Pulskamp, Navajo, powwow coordinator and Supporting the Educational Journey coordinator in Native Student Programs. “Singers and dancers and their friends and family are participating in a traditional gathering. So in this way, it is a very special learning opportunity for everyone who comes because even people who are watching are participating in the event.”

University powwows serve a very special role, Pulskamp said. “Native people have had a rough history with educational institutions in the United States, which has had lasting effects on the community. When a university hosts a powwow, or other traditional Native events, it is an opportunity for Native communities to see that there is a place for them on that campus and for Native university students to reconnect with a community that sometimes can feel very far away.”

With the generous support of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the University of Redlands has developed Native American Studies and Native Student Programs to help build the Native community of students, staff, and faculty. Through the Supporting the Educational Journey Program within Native Student Programs, and a partnership with the Native American Resource Center, the University is now able bring this event to campus.

“It is my hope that this will become an annual tradition that will bring pride to the entire campus community and continue to strengthen the University’s relationship with Native communities,” Pulskamp said.

Bird singing—the traditional songs and dances of local tribes—will begin at noon both days and also at 6 p.m. March 29. The powwow will officially begin at 1 p.m. both days with the grand entry, with a second grand entry at 7 p.m. March 29.

Head Staff will include:

  • Master of Ceremonies, Ruben Littlehead, Happy Flats, Mont.
  • Arena Director, Rusty Gillette, Falls Church, Va.
  • Host Northern Drum, War Scout, West Valley City, Utah
  • Host Southern Drum, Bucwild, Chinle, Ariz.
  • Invited Northern Drum, Bear Spring Singers, Beaumont, Calif.
  • Invited Southern Drum, Hale and Company, Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Head Man Dancer, Skyle McMichael, La Jolla, Calif.
  • Head Woman Dancer, Star Whiteeye, Ontario, Canada

The powwow will include dance contests in various categories and award cash prizes. Each category will have cash prizes for the top four dancers which will range from $700 to $300. The categories include:

  • Golden Age (Men 50+)
  • Golden Age (Women 50+)
  • Men and Women (18-49): Northern Traditional, Southern Traditional, Grass, Chicken, Fancy, Jingle
  • Boys and Girls (7-17): Traditional, Grass, Fancy, Jingle
  • Tiny Tots paid daily

Native Student Programs at Redlands addresses higher education retention and access issues as they affect Native American college students and seeks to create and sustain a visible and vibrant Native American community at the University. More than 20 Southern California tribal communities are located within 100 miles of the Redlands campus, and the University of Redlands is close to Los Angeles, the city with the largest population of Native Americans in the country.

“Thanks to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, we have made great strides in developing Native American Studies at the University of Redlands,” said Larry Gross, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Endowed Chair of Native American Studies. “Since Native American Studies was created at the University of Redlands in 2011, we’ve added five classes on the topic and have sponsored a number of events, such as movie screenings.”

The San Manuel gift supports the endowed chair of Native American Studies, full-time recruitment and retention coordinators in Native Student Programs and scholarship funds for Native American students who have strong connections with tribal communities, particularly those from southern California tribes.

Native Student Programs is part of the Campus Diversity & Inclusion at the University of Redlands.


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