GV powwow celebrates Native American heritage

Erin Grogan

Representatives from Native American tribes across Michigan will visit Grand Valley State University this weekend to participate in this year’s Celebrating All Walks of Life Pow Wow. This marks the 17th year the event, hosted by GVSU’s Native American Student Association (NASA), has taken place.

Kristie Scanlon, assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and co-chair of the Powwow Planning Committee, has worked with NASA to plan the event. She is also the staff professional adviser to NASA.

“Powwows are like a family gathering in the Native American culture,” Scanlon said. “It’s a great time to come together and celebrate traditions, family, friends and culture.”

Molly Matson, a sophomore and nursing major, is the president of NASA and a co-chair of the Powwow Planning Committee.

“A powwow is just a traditional celebration,” Matson said. “We get together and we dance and celebrate each other, our lives and our ancestors – just about everything.”

Matson herself is from the Sault Ste. Marie tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

“I’ve been involved in powwows because of my Native American heritage my entire life,” Matson said. “For me, being able to still continue to do these traditions, even through college, is amazing.”

Though the powwows may have had a great impact on Matson’s personal life, she also stressed the importance it has to the GVSU community as a whole. This event is designed to help others learn about Native Americans, broaden their cultural outlook and dispel stereotypes about Native American community.

“We just want the Grand Valley community to be able to experience a powwow,” Matson said. “There are a lot of people on campus and students who don’t really know what a powwow is, who have never experienced one. Many people don’t even realize that Native Americans are still around and that we do things like this.”

NASA’s powwow committee started planning the event last summer and continued in weekly meetings throughout the year. Unlike past years, the event will take place in Fieldhouse Arena over two days.

On Saturday, April 11, the doors to the Fieldhouse open at 1 p.m., with Grand Entries at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Doors open on Sunday, April 12 at 11 a.m. with a Grand Entry at noon and the festivities continue until 4 p.m.

During the powwow, guests can shop for traditional Native American items in a vendor area. Native American artists will sell beadwork, art pieces and sculptures. Food vendors will also be present, providing guests with traditional Native American food – such as fry bread, Indian tacos and buffalo burgers. NASA will also hold a silent auction and a 50/50 raffle.

The powwow will also include performances from four different drum groups that originate from different areas of the state. Dancers from multiple tribes will also participate in dances on both days of the event.

“You just kind of go out there and dance,” Matson said. “It’s not like a routine dance. You just kind of go from your heart and dance however you want.”

The two-day event is sponsored by NASA, Division of Inclusion and Equity, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Auxiliary Services, Cultural Programming Council, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, FireKeepers Casino and Gun Lake Casino.

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