Campus News

Spring powwow connects UW-Madison community with Native American culture

The 48th Annual Spring Powwow welcomed Native Americans from across the nation and members of the Madison community at the New Holland Pavilion over the weekend.

Image By: Katie Scheidt

The sound of drum beats filled parts of the Alliant Energy Center as dancers in traditional native regalia performed at the 48th On Wisconsin Annual Spring Powwow. 

The UW-Madison student organization Wunk Sheek coordinated the powwow in the center’s New Holland Pavilions Saturday and Sunday. The event brought together Native American dancers, vendors and spectators from across the U.S. together all weekend. It connected the campus community with Native American culture through dancing ceremonies and the selling of tribal food, merchandise and art.

Wunk Sheek Co-president Kelly Holmes said a goal for the event each year is to bridge the gap between native and non-native communities on and off campus.

“This is one of the few parts of our culture we can share with other people and bring everyone together,” Holmes said. “It’s like a family cookout for Natives to make our community bigger while we can, and we have people from across the world here.”

Holmes is a member of the Ojibwe tribe and was raised on the Red Cliff reservation in Wisconsin. Members from each of the 11 federally recognized tribes in Wisconsin were present at the event in addition to others.

Jon Taken Alive, a Lakota tribe member from the Cheyenne River in South Dakota, said he flew to Wisconsin with hopes to pass on respect and dancing to his sons.

“Respect has to go both ways, and that’s how I was raised. You know, the word respect, it eliminates all other rules,” Taken Alive said. “The Grand Entry is where everybody comes out; it’s the intro to the powwow and Inter-Tribals can go out and dance, everybody and anybody invited.”

The Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement, as well as each UW-Madison college and the Ho-Chunk nation, contributed to the powwow, according to Wunk Sheek staff advisor Alison Bowman.

“It was a very piecemeal effort. [We’re] very appreciative, but definitely a lot of fundraising is a huge part of making this happen because no one is just handing us a check to go do this,” Bowman said.

Charles Hindley, a member of the Ho-Chunk nation, said the songs and colors of the powwow are two of the most beautiful aspects of the event."It will enhance your spirit, there are a lot of people that come here and they are just in awe of what they see,” Hindley said. “They want to let all the different denominations know that our culture is very much alive and we invite you to come around and look at us.”

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