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Second annual Pow-Wow celebrates Native culture at Western

Ariela Vendiola, 15, dances during an intertribal, or free-for-all, dance session during the WWU NASU Spring Pow Wow on Saturday, April 18, at Sam Carver Gymnasium. // Photo by Chanel Retasket
Ariela Vendiola, 15, dances during an intertribal, or free-for-all, dance session during the WWU NASU Spring Pow Wow on Saturday, April 18, at Sam Carver Gymnasium. // Photo by Chanel Retasket

Tribes from around the Pacific Northwest gathered, competed in and celebrated Native American culture with Western and the community at the Native American Student Union (NASU) Pow-Wow in Sam Carver Gymnasium.

The group wanted to hold a Pow Wow on campus to represent the Lummi, Nooksack and Swinomish tribes that populate the area, said Michaela Vendiola, Western sophomore and NASU publicity and community outreach officer.

“The campus is on native land. We wanted students to learn about Native American culture, and bring all communities and native traditions to campus,” Vendiola said.

Around 300 people attended the second annual Pow-Wow held Saturday, April 18, and Sunday, April 19, Vendiola said. 

Vendiola, who majors in community health and minors in American cultural studies and American Indian studies, is from the Walker River Paiute and Swinomish tribes. She grew up in the Lummi community. 

Before last year’s event, Western hadn’t hosted a Pow Wow since the early 2000s, Vendiola said. The NASU hopes to continue bringing the event to campus on a regular basis.

Each day of the event began with a grand entry procession with the American and Lummi Nation flags. Members of local tribes came together with audience members to dance, while more visitors arrived at the gym.

Around the dance floor, groups took turns playing large, traditional drums and singing for dancers. The host drum was performed by Young Society, a group of professional traditional drummers from Tacoma. 

Cory Williams dances a traditional-style dance during the WWU NASU Spring Pow Wow on Saturday, April 18, in Sam Carver Gymnasium. // Photo by Chanel Retasket
Cory Williams dances a traditional-style dance during the WWU NASU Spring Pow Wow on Saturday, April 18, in Sam Carver Gymnasium. // Photo by Chanel Retasket

Dancers of all ages competed in separate categories like traditional, grass, fancy and jingle. Each dance comes with its own set of steps and traditional dress.

Pow-Wow judges picked winners after each dance and at the end of the event, the winners were announced, awarded prize money and presented with a traditional gift of a Pendleton blanket. 

During the event, vendors displayed and sold native art, jewelry, clothing and accessories. 

Next year, Vendiola wants to incorporate more non-competitive dances, such as a switch dance, during which men and women exchange regalia and dance.

The club also organizes other events, such as bringing students to Northwest Indian College in Ferndale to celebrate traditional dinners and play traditional games.

Sophomore and Fairhaven student Sabeqwa de los Angeles volunteered at the Pow-Wow and noted that the money raised by the Pow-Wow raffles will be used to fund next year’s events.

While not a member of NASU herself, de los Angeles was impressed with the large number of volunteers.

Tahlia Natachu is a junior at Western, English Literature with a secondary education emphasis major and the co-chair of NASU. She has a minor in Native American studies, education and social justice and is part of the Zuni tribe in New Mexico.

Natachu helped organize concessions, which sold native meals such as fry bread, Indian tacos and Rez dogs, which are hot dogs wrapped in fry bread during the events.

“This is my second Pow-Wow on campus,” Natachu said. “ This year I loved it, I’m proud of everyone and our hard work, it was very rewarding and I was filled with joy.”

Contributions to support the event came from Western’s Center of Education, Equity and Diversity (CEED), the Tulalip Tribe, Sierra club, Western’s Diversity fund and the Leonard Jones fund.

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