The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

100° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Togetherness a theme of powwow

    Josh Fields/ Arizona Daily Wildcat
Miss Native American University of Arizona, Michelle Thomas, a pre-nursing freshman participates in Saturdays powwow.
    Jake Lacey
    Josh Fields/ Arizona Daily Wildcat Miss Native American University of Arizona, Michelle Thomas, a pre-nursing freshman participates in Saturday’s powwow.

    Men and women adorned with colorful costumes, feathers and bells danced to rhythmic chanting and drumbeats Friday and Saturday during an American Indian powwow.

    The 10th annual powwow, hosted by the Wildcat Powwow Society, was held at Bear Down Field and brought together people from different communities and tribes.

    American Indian arts and crafts, food, dancing, singing and drumming were all showcased at the competitive event.

    “”It brings people together,”” said Tondalia Brown-States, president of the powwow society. “”All different tribes and all different people.””

    Much of the event is dedicated to honoring warriors and veterans, Brown-States said.

    “”It’s just to give people a chance to see the other side,”” she said. “”There isn’t another powwow that’s around this area.””

    Michelle Thomas, Miss Native American University of Arizona and a pre-nursing freshman, said she went to serve as an ambassador to the UA and represent the native community.

    “”The powwow brings everybody together; they can enjoy Native American food and dancing,”” Thomas said. “”It’s a place for togetherness.””

    Thomas worked at a food booth during the powwow to try to raise money for her travel expenses.

    “”Traveling, meeting a lot of new people and new faces has been my favorite part of being Miss Native American,”” Thomas said. “”The kids and elders look to me as a role model.””

    Modern powwows show dances that originated among many different tribes, said Ryan Rumley, the event’s emcee.

    “”A lot of stories and songs aren’t written down, so we need to keep passing culture along or we lose it,”” Rumley said. “”For the younger culture, there are lots of distractions, so we try to bring them in the powwow lifestyle and it keeps them out of trouble.””

    Singing and dancing contests were the highlights of both evenings, featuring a traditional Gourd Dance, the national anthem sung by Thomas and the Grammy-nominated music of Cheevers Toppah.

    “”My favorite part of the evening has been the singing and watching the little kids participate in the powwow,”” said Davie Linker, a pre-business freshman. “”Being from the Southwest, I know a lot about Native American culture, but there’s a lot of people at the university that haven’t been as exposed. This opens people’s eyes to see what real tradition is.””

    Stacy Wood, a biology freshman, came to the powwow to see her friends who were participating.

    “”It’s important to bring everybody together,”” Wood said. “”Non-native people will get to see a little bit of our culture.””

    Recognizing the contributions that American Indians have made and getting a new perspective were the most important parts of the event, said Caylin Stroupe, a pre-nursing sophomore.

    “”Their costumes are so elaborate,”” Stroupe said. “”We learned in class that the colors all stand for different things in each tribe. It’s just altogether a really cool experience.””

    The event, sponsored by Fort McDowell Navajo Tribe, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community, the Tucson Indian Center and the Sacred Grounds Trading Post, cost about $23,000 to put together, Brown-States said. The winners of the dance competition received $300 for first place, $200 for second place and $100 for third place, which were all part of the total expense.

    The Wildcat Powwow Society, formerly known as Tribal People United, has been hosting the event since 1994 but had to discontinue it in 2001 because of low funding. The powwow was restarted in 2003 and attracts drum groups and singers from states as far away as Montana and South Dakota.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search