• Chad M. Olson

Spring Honor Dance and Powwow Celebration brings tradition back to spring semester

A powwow only comes around once a year to Minot State University, but last year’s event was canceled due to an abundance of caution regarding the pandemic. This is why excitement is reaching a whole new level this year for Native American Center Director Anette Mennem.

The highly anticipated 31st annual celebration is set to kick off on Friday, April 30 at 7 p.m. and will run through Saturday, May 1 at the MSU Dome.

The powwow will honor the university’s 2020 and 2021 graduates. The event is being put on by the Native American Cultural Center, the Native American Cultural Awareness Club, and local vendors.

“I feel overwhelmed, I feel excited, I feel happy, I feel fear because it’s a year of fear. I just don’t want it to be a super spreader,” Mennem said.

COVID-19 has left a nasty wake of destruction. Its effects are being felt throughout the world, and last year’s powwow was no exception. Mennem said the cancellation of the 2020 event left her and other Native Americans a little lost because powwows are such a central part of Indigenous culture.

Last year’s graduates were unable to be honored in the traditional fashion. The pandemic also left a feeling of uncertainty of when or if they would see their powwow friends again.

“I go to powwows all summer. Last year, I had to cancel seven powwow trips,” Mennem said.

This is why there is a mixture of emotions for the event this year. Fortunately, the annual powwow is back, but the event will be a slightly scaled back version of previous celebrations, according to Mennem. The number of vendors will be limited, social distancing guidelines will be enforced, and masks will be required. This will ensure that this celebration and future ones can be held without fear and so that everyone can focus on what a powwow really is — a party and a celebration.

In addition to the Grand Entry, or Opening Ceremony, there will be an Indigenous garden blessing and a tepee raising in conjunction with the powwow. Details on the other two events will be announced on the MSU website. There will also be a tentative buffalo roast feed on the Saturday of the powwow. A food booth ran by the Native American Cultural Awareness Club will be on-site Friday and Saturday. Featured items on the menu include frybread tacos, hot dogs, nachos, and super nachos. There will also be popcorn, fruit, candy, soda, and water.

Students who wish to be recognized at the powwow should go to the head table in the MSU Dome to register starting at 3 p.m. on Friday or 10 a.m. on Saturday. Required information includes name, degree, and hometown. All students are welcome at the honoring ceremony.

The Honor Dance for graduating MSU seniors begins on Saturday at 8 p.m.

Featured dance contests of the powwow for the men’s division will be the traditional, grass, and fancy dances. The women’s dances will include the traditional, fancy, and jingle dances. First, second, and third place winners will receive a cash award.

The Minot State powwow celebration has experienced a lot of growth since its inception and people come from all over the United States to participate.

The first powwow was initially proposed by the Minot State Student Government Association. Originally, it started with only four drums and four vendors. In 2019, the ceremony had 16 drums and 17 vendors.

“I’ve had people from all over the state reach out already,” Mennem said.

Although the powwow is back on track, attendance may not be as high this year because of the U.S./Canada border closure. The good news is that the time-honored tradition is still alive and well. The whole community is welcome to come, participate, and learn something new.

“I want people to know that we’re still here and still doing our things and the culture is still alive. It’s an opportunity. If you’ve never been to a powwow, why not take the chance. It’s free and open to the public,” Mennem said.

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