KU First Nations Student Association Powwow celebrates Indigenous culture through dancing, presentations and activities

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Community members gathered at the Lied Center Saturday to learn about and celebrate Indigenous culture through the 34th annual KU First Nations Student Association (FNSA) powwow. 

The powwow kicked off at 10:30 a.m. with the Gourd Dance. Master of Ceremonies Manny King of the Northern Cheyenne and Navajo tribes opened the event by welcoming everyone and explaining the history of the Gourd Dance. 


The Gourd Dance tells the ancient Kiowa legend of a young warrior encountering a red wolf after being separated from his tribe and nearly dying of exposure. 

“And in the morning, that wolf approached him and told him, ‘I’ve showed you these beautiful things to cherish,’” King said. “Take care of them; remember them; take them to your people. They will forever bless you and look over you in a good way.”

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Head Gourd Tim Robinson of the Omaha Nation of Nebraska led the opening Gourd Dance.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Oklahoma All Nations served as the southern host drum, and Dr. Cornel Pewewardy of the Commanche and Kiowa tribes was the Head Singer. Although the Gourd Dance was originally meant to honor warriors specifically, Pewewardy said that today it honors all who serve their families.

The sixth annual Indigenous Cultures Festival hosted free educational presentations and activities throughout the day, offering contemporary books by Indigenous authors, fingerweaving workshops, traditional games and more. 

Several members of the Indigenous community lectured on traditional powwow happenings. Jancita Warrington of the Menominee and Potawatomi tribes gave an overview of the rich history of the powwow, and educational panels and art showcases were on display in the Lied Center and parking lot. 

“Our goal today — with the powwow and all of the educational components — is to foster a greater appreciation of our culture,” Warrington said. “If we allow people to experience our culture … or they learn a little bit more about the dances that they’re about to see, then they get a little bit of a different understanding and perspective.”

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Jancita Warrington of the Menominee and Potawatomi tribes gave an overview of the history of powwows in the Lied Center pavilion before Grand Entry.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times

Warrington covered everything from the Gourd Dance and Grand Entry to the types of fabrics traditionally worn.

“Sometimes when things are pointed out to us or when we can participate in some of the workshops, we have a greater appreciation for what we see,” Warrington said. “As we learn a little bit more about the cultural intricacies of a tribe, it results in a greater appreciation in the future. And it’ll make for a better day for all our children to be more culturally diverse in the future.”

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times The Prairie Band Potawatomi Wa-Te-Se Post American Legion Post 410 served as the powwow’s color guard. The color guard, which is usually made up of elders and veterans, leads the head dancers and honored guests during the Grand Entry before the rest of the dancers enter the arena.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Tyrone Green of the Kickapoo and Potawatomi tribes adjusts his headdress during the Grand Entry. Green said he’s been dancing since he could walk, and he looks forward to the Grand Entry every year.
“Most of this was made for me, but I helped my family make everything,” he said of his outfit. “It takes about half an hour to put everything on.”
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Rory Harms, left, borrows from the Indigenous Cultures Festival’s collection of books by Indigenous authors to read to Marlow Harms in the FNSA teepee. The two read “Big Turtle” by David McLimans several times.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Olivia Miles, 6, draws a rainbow outside of the FNSA teepee.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Olivia Miles, 6, draws a rainbow outside of the FNSA teepee.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times

Jared Nally of the Myaamia tribe gave a fingerweaving workshop in the Lied Center’s lobby.

Weaving is an integral part of Indigenous history, as it allowed people to carry water, food and other materials before baskets and bottles were invented.

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Participants were given supply kits and watched a PowerPoint tutorial as Nally instructed everyone individually.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times The introductory-level class was open to everyone ages 12 and up, but people of all ages were welcome to watch.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Catherine Li attended the powwow on a class trip with Blue Valley High School. She watched closely as Nally explained each step of the fingerweaving process and did her best to replicate it on her own kit.
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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.

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