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Columns » I Spy

Common Ground

Native American Student Union at CC celebrates the spirit of community with powwow


With spring finally wagging its first tails of green, nothing could be harder to repress than a celebration. And for members of the Colorado College Native American Student Union (NASU), along with guests from all over North America, the "Many Nations Contest Pow-Wow" will be their chance to usher in a joyous new season of cooperation and unity.

On Saturday and Sunday, representatives from various Native American tribes, along with local supporters, will convene at CC's El Pomar Gym for two days of celebrating peace and diversity and enough dancing to wear holes in just about anyone's moccasins. And it's all in the spirit of friendly competition.

Faculty sponsor Suzi Nishida, a Southwest studies instructor at CC, says the various tribal representatives in attendance for this year's powwow will all dance to the same music, while "interpreting it in beautifully individual styles based on unique tribal traditions." Participants in the grand entry dance will compete for prizes and recognition, while inter-tribal dances and exhibitions are also planned to "celebrate the culture of all groups participating."

Indeed, this year's powwow promises to be a truly inclusive event. "The only way for Native Americans and people from another culture to get together on common ground, is through a powwow," said Nishida. "It is a social gathering, not a religious ceremony. So we encourage all groups to participate." While tribes such as Zuni, Lakota, Navajo and Ute will be represented by dancers and vendors selling authentic jewelry and pottery, a successful powwow is impossible without input from the outside.

"Non-Native Americans add to the diversity of the event," said Nishida, "and the NASU's goal is to get everyone involved in the celebration." That should be an easy undertaking, with a slate of planned activities that include gourd dancing and singing-and-drumming contests. For connoisseurs of indigenous delicacies, organizers also plan to have various foods on hand.

This year's "Many Nations Contest Pow-Wow" is sponsored by CC President Richard F. Celeste, the Colorado Campus Association, the Hulbert Center for Southwestern Studies, and the Diversity Council. The event will include several guests of note, including ground-blesser Howard Bad Hand from Taos, N.M., and master of ceremonies Tony Arketeta from Ponca City, Okla.

This event is free and open to the public, with the ultimate goal of the celebration being an overall sense of community awareness.

"Native American tribes all dress and dance differently from one another," said Nishida. And of course, all non-Native Americans do too. In the spirit of recognizing the One among the many, and the individuality within every group, they dance. And so should you.

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