Powwow brings diverse community

By Melissa Oveson

Dancers adorned with brightly colored feathers, images of animals and beadwork moved as a drum circle kept a constant beat. Some dancers moved gently with the assistance of canes, while others — too young to dance alone — held on to the hands of others.

Despite differences in age, all participants came together Friday and Saturday for one reason: to dance for Mother Earth at the powwow.

Numerous tribes came together from across the state for two days of dancing and competition at the 36th annual Intertribal Pow Wow hosted at the U. Dancing to the beats of six drum circles, participants took to the Union Ballroom floor to celebrate an American Indian tradition of honoring the Earth through dance. Competitions in various dance styles were held for all ages, including 6-year-old children.

Nita Bailey, a Salt Lake City resident and member of the Navajo tribe, watched her three children compete in the events. Although her children regularly compete at powwows in Utah, Bailey said she always gets a little nervous when they perform. She said two of her children hold titles for mini queen and king for Hawaiian Tropic, awards they received at past powwows.

Although she attends the powwows to watch her children, she said she thinks the event is important for the community to participate in.

“We do have a lot of Native American students here at the U,” Bailey said. “I think (the powwow) is great for cultural awareness.”

Across the room, newly crowned Michelle Tsosie-Robb fulfilled her duties as head woman of the ceremonies after being chosen as the American Indian Woman Scholar at the U for 2008-2009. Currently a U student in nutrition and a member of the Navajo tribe, Tsosie-Robb hopes to enter the nursing program next fall.

“I think being chosen for this award comes with a lot of responsibilities to represent our cultures,” Tsosie-Robb said. “Yet, it is something I feel I can do well.”

The dancing was the main attraction of this weekend’s events, but numerous vendors also shared pieces of their cultures by selling jewelry, instruments, accessories and food.

Elsie Stanley, a Salt Lake City resident and member of the Navajo tribe, sold her handmade beaded jewelry at the event.

“I really enjoy participating in the powwow,” Stanley said. “I’ve been doing this for many years.”

As part of the American Indian Awareness Month, the powwow was one of several events taking place at the U to help facilitate understanding among cultures. Three films — “Miss Navajo,” “Native American Healing — 21st Century” and “Native Land” — will be shown tonight at 6 p.m. at the Union Theatre.

An open house will be at the American Indian Resource Center on Friday at 2 p.m.

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Anna Kartashova

Orlando Dugi burns the edges of the multi-colored ribbons on his grass dance outfit before the dance? contest at the 36th annual powwow organized by the Inter-Tribal Student Association in the Union Ballroom on? Saturday.