This weekend more than 1,000 American Indian dancers, decked out in full ceremonial dress, danced and paraded their way around Crisler Arena, creating a sea of colors that flowed with the rhythm of the surrounding drums as different tribes from around the nation came together to celebrate.
The scene, an intertribal, was one of many coming from the 29th annual Ann Arbor Pow Wow, “Dance for Mother Earth,” which began Friday afternoon and ended yesterday.
“Intertribals are when anyone can go out and start dancing. It”s just everyone coming together,” said Native American Student Association member Nickole Fox, an LSA freshman.
The pow wow, one of the largest of its kind in the Midwest, is one of a series of competitions and exhibits for American Indians.
Dancers come from as far as Alaska to compete and gain national recognition for their talents.
“In most communities, the people on the drums are assumed to be the leaders of the community. The drums set the tone and keep the competition going,” said Darren Goetz, co-chair of NASA, one of the hosts of the event. The pow wow was also hosted by the University chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs.
Wayne Memorial High School junior Kristin Hopkins, a member of the Oneida tribe, who has been dancing since she was five years old, said she began dancing after her parents took her to a pow wow. Now she competes regularly.
“Next weekend will be Kalamazoo, but this is one of the biggest ones so everyone comes here,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins said she used non-competitive pow wows to practice her dancing for the weekend.
“It helps you get better so you can dance a little better and learn new steps,” she said, adding that she didn”t compete for the prize money. “I just like to keep my heritage alive.”
Goetz, an Engineering senior, said many of the dancers make a living traveling to different pow wows. The dancers earn points based on the quality of their dancing, and those with the highest points earn a spot at the world championships.
The competition isn”t the only significant part of the pow wow.
“Students here don”t really have a cultural outlet, and this gives students a time to come together. It”s where we regroup,” said Goetz. “The social aspect of it is really important.”
Modern pow wows evolved from the Grass Dance Societies in the 1800s, when warriors reenacted battles and brave deeds for the rest of the tribe.
Another major part of the pow wow are the vendors surrounding the arena, selling American Indian crafts like moccasins, beaded jewelry and dolls. Prices for the crafts ranged from $3 bracelets to $2,400 wood carvings.
Despite the variety of displays, most of the interest still focused on the dancing in the court.
“I”ve been here all weekend, and I”ve been coming here since I was little. The Grand Entry is probably the best part because all the dancers come out in full dress,” said Fox.
For the students from NASA involved in organizing the event, there was a sigh of relief seeing the dancers in the middle of the court.
“The first Grand Entry is the best part because it”s just a sign of it going off smoothly,” said Goetz.