Student organization's powwow showcases Native American culture

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The and Annual Head Dancer Everett Webkamigad gets ready at the Mother Earth Pow-Wow held at Skyline High School Saturday. Buy this photo

By Brie Winnega , Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 6, 2014

Hundreds of members of the Native American community engaged in a cultural celebration this weekend during the 42nd annual Dance for Mother Earth Powwow.

The powwow, hosted by the Native American Student Association, brought community members together to celebrate their culture. Although past powwows have been held at the Crisler Center, this year’s event was moved to Skyline High School due to a scheduling conflict.

LSA junior Sarah Ballew served as NASA co-chair for the second year, working to organize the group’s largest event of the year and one of the largest student-run powwows in the country. Ballew said the one-year-long planning process is made worthwhile by seeing the community come together to celebrate.

“It’s to continue our traditions and make sure our Native culture survives and gets passed down to the next generations,” Ballew said. “And also to give the community a glimpse of what the Native American culture is all about, to kind of bash those stereotypes and those misrepresentations that are continuously presented in the media about Native Americans.”

The Native American Student Organization of Eastern Michigan University collaborated with NASA to put on the powwow.

Eastern Michigan student Rebecca Thomas, a NASO member, said the organization hopes to learn the logistics of a powwow from this experience so they will be prepared for their own event, which they are currently planning to hold in the fall.

“We wanted to mentor Eastern because they haven’t had a powwow in ten years,” Ballew said. “It’s a very small student group like ourselves but we’ve had this very long-running event so we wanted to mentor them on how they could host a powwow on their own.”

Ballew also said she hopes for more support from the University in the future.

“This year we were forced off campus again, so we really want for future years to be a space and a date that the University provides to help this event be successful,” Ballew said.

The powwow came complete with traditional Native American food, dancers, drummers, and artisans. Apart from the dancing competitions and drumming contest, one of this year’s main events was the fashion show, which featured designs from Beyond Buckskin fashion boutique worn by volunteer student models.

Jessica Metcalfe, founder and owner of Beyond Buckskin, said she hopes to introduce the “immense talent” of Native American artists and designers to more people.

“Fashion is inherently exciting,” Metcalfe said. “It’s inherently cool and fun, and when you throw Native American cultures into that mix, it just gets even more interesting, and more cool, and more fascinating and fun.”

Metcalfe said she often attends powwows both for work and for fun. She added that she was excited when NASA invited her to put on another fashion show since she had a positive experience doing the fashion show as part of the group’s Native Heritage Month activities last year. Metcalfe said having a “physical space” on campus would make NASA even more successful.

“I’m so impressed with the students here at the University of Michigan,” Metcalfe said. “Besides doing the coursework, they’re doing all these other extracurricular activities having to do with diversity and really getting that information out there. So not only are they students, they’re educators, and I think that’s just so extraordinary, what they do.”