By Elianna Novitch
A vibrant celebration of Native culture took over the University of Iowa Field House this past weekend.
The 24th UI Powwow and first UI Round Dance brought a colorful celebration of music and dance to campus for the community to enjoy. The event was put on by the Native American Student Association.
“I grew up going to powwows back home so it’s really cool that on the campus we get to do it because it’s something that makes you feel at home and something you get to share with a lot of people,” Vice President of Native American Student Association Jessica Owens said. “A lot of my friends who are non-Native never grew up going to powwows, so it’s really cool that they get to see something that I’ve had my whole life.”
This is the first year that the Powwow officially opened with a Round Dance.
“Previous years, we kind of had a semi-Round Dance. This year, we decide to really enforce it because we’ve had a lot more Meskwakie students join us, and they emphasize the importance of it,” President of the Native American Student Association Xiomara Santana said. “We’ve also had other Natives who also think it’s really important to start off the powwow like that.”
The Powwow included a variety of events for people to enjoy including performances by professional Native dancers, music from drummers, and food.
“I had never gone to a powwow until I came here and became part of Native American Student Association, so going to the Powwow the first impression I had was just feeling so enlightened and in touch,” 2017-18 UISG Native American Constituency Sen. Adriana Peterson said.
Owens emphasized how important the Powwow is for recruitment and retention of Native students because it provides a space on campus for students to experience something that is familiar.
Students who identify as Alaskan Native or Native American make up 0.2 percent of the UI student population, and according to enrollment data for the fall of 2017, there were 58 students enrolled who identified as such.
Coinciding with the Powwow was the UI’s first ever Native Student Visiting Day. The day was put on in collaboration between the Office of Admissions, Native American Student Association, and the Native American Council. Twenty prospective individuals attended the visit day.
“We wanted to give the visiting families that opportunity to really see what the culture and community is like here on our campus and there’s no better way to do that than the Powwow especially with it being around for 24 years,” Assistant Director of Diversity Outreach & Recruitment Sauvik Goswami said.
Goswami said he hopes to see the program grow in the future.
“I’m really excited about what we’re doing here and this is an event that really excites me because it’s truly an all campus initiative,” Goswami said. “It’s not just an Admissions Office or CDE program. This is a lot of different people coming together to happen. This is truly a University of Iowa recruitment program, not an Office of Admissions recruitment program.”
Santana said in the future she would like to see more commitment from the UI in supporting the Powwow because of the vital role it plays in recruitment and retention.
“Every year for Powwow we are scraping by with money. I would like to see the university provide us with an annual amount of money that we can work around,” Santana said. “A lot of the time, we start from zero, and we have to promise dancers, singers, and drum groups money that we don’t have at the moment. We need that certainty with money to secure those dancers and singers because that’s what gets people to come to Powwows.”