Community, food, shopping and dancing attracted people from Lawrence and beyond to the Haskell Alumni Association’s powwow.
The doors of the Coffin Sports Complex at Haskell Indian Nations University opened at noon, followed by the Gourd Dance — a traditional dance meant to honor the warrior. People trickled into the gymnasium throughout the day, looking forward to Grand Entry in the evening.
People browsed through handmade jewelry, clothing, candles and crafts and enjoyed foods like frybread and bison chili while they waited for the evening’s festivities. As Grand Entry drew nearer, the bathrooms and bleachers became crowded with folks dressing in Indigenous regalia, eager to start dancing.
“We have a lot of different tribes here tonight,” said Ruben Little Head, master of ceremonies and a Haskell alum. “So dance tall, and dance proud.”
The powwow, which was free and open to the public, welcomed all dancers and drummers. After Neil Lawhead of the Cherokee, Ottawa, Kiowa and Comanche tribes gave an opening prayer, everyone followed Little Head’s orders and took to the gym’s floor.
Haskell alum and Head Gourd Tim Robinson of the Omaha Nation of Nebraska performed the opening Gourd Dance.
Darren Keah-Tigh of the Creek, Kiowa, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes joins Robinson in the Gourd Dance.
Blazing Bear, a drum group from Oklahoma, performed traditional songs throughout the powwow. The group’s members represent the Fox, Kiowa, Cheyenne, Shawnee, Comanche and Sac tribes.
Kacie Keah-Tigh dances in place during the Gourd Dance.
Darren Keah-Tigh faces Blazing Bear as he dances and rattles his makeshift gourd. Although the origins of the Gourd Dance are unclear, many tribes believe it began when a Kiowa warrior close to death was revitalized by the sight of a red wolf howling and shaking a rattle. Today, the Gourd Dance is meant to honor the brave and provide strength.
Shari LaRoussa of the Delaware Cherokee tribe joins Kacie Keah-Tigh in the Gourd Dance.
Darlene Miller, left, and Vic Secondine, of the Lenape (Delaware) tribe, admire Rez Ribbonz’s collection of handmade skirts, jackets and sets.
Indigenous vendors sold a myriad of handcrafted products, offering candles, baked goods, clothing and artwork.
Veronica Pate of the Choctaw and Sicangu Lakota Sioux tribes created these handmade earrings; each pair takes “around three to five hours to make.” More jewelry is available for purchase on Pate’s Instagram account, @spirited.daffodils.
Ruben Little Head, Haskell alum of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, served as the event’s master of ceremonies.
It’s customary to put gifts and money on a blanket for the drummers in order for everyone to give and receive blessings. Those who wish to give directly to the Haskell Alumni Association and help continue their work may do so at this link.
Tashina Red Hawk of the Lakota tribe, who won Miss Indian World 2022, made an appearance at the powwow.
Red Hawk, an aspiring veterinarian, uses her platform to inspire cultural pride and encourage Indigenous children to set high educational goals for themselves.
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Note: A caption in this post has been corrected.
Chloe Anderson (she/her) contributed to The Lawrence Times from August 2022 through May 2023. She is also published in Climbing magazine, Kansas Reflector and Sharp End Publishing. As a recent graduate of the University of Kansas, Chloe plans to continue her career in photography, rock climbing and writing somewhere out West.
You can view her portfolio, articles and commissioned work here. Check out more of her work for the Times here.