UW-Madison’s American Indian Student Organization Wunk Sheek will host the 47th On Wisconsin Annual Spring Powwow (OWASP) April 2-3 at the Alliant Energy Center Arena. This event will be free and open to the public.
The On Wisconsin Annual Spring Powwow provides an opportunity to learn outside of the classroom and participate in a contemporary Native event, and enhance the Wisconsin Experience by providing the campus and surrounding community the opportunity to share and to learn the culture of the people indigenous to this area.
More than 3,000 people attended the OWASP in 2015, said Bobbi Skenandore, a member of Wunk Sheek, which plans and is lead host of the annual Spring Powwow outreach event.
“We do the Powwow to not only celebrate our culture but to open it up to the campus at large and really get non-Natives immersed in Native culture that they might otherwise not have access to.” Cristal Uceta, an undergraduate majoring in Spanish and journalism who is working on the Powwow as a volunteer, agreed the annual powwow is one of just a few events outside of taking classes for credit where majority students can delve into a learning atmosphere on culture. Wunk Sheek designs the Spring Powwow like most traditional powwows where there’re plenty of celebratory activities and good food. The participants and visiting tribal members play a huge role in making it a welcoming event.
Annual Powwows play an integral role that happens just once a year by bringing Native culture from the entire larger region – Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa and even Canada — to the campus, said Christopher Kilgour, Program manager for the UW-Madison Tribal Technology Institute.
“It’s a community gathering for strength, reflection and sharing, as well as a way to re-center for many people,” Kilgour said, especially for students who are from Native communities where they are consistently surrounded by their culture. A pivotal mass of Native American students also will be in the Madison area attending the annual TTI Conference and Wisconsin Indian Education Association Conference during Powwow weekend, he added, which is intentional. “This will make it possible to not only expose students to events and activities on campus, but also put them in contact with other Native students from all over the state who are involved in education,” Kilgour said. “This is a totally different world. For some students, Powwow may be the only time they see other community members.”
Coming to Madison from Chicago, Skenandore is a senior and member of the Oneida Tribe, majoring in environmental studies and non-profit leadership along with earning a certificate in American Indian Studies.
It’s important for students to be able to advocate for themselves and express their cultural identity while away at college, she said. Having students plan and organize the powwow allows for them to connect to their culture while educating their fellow non-Native students and community members about a piece of their culture. Students run and coordinate the two-day event, which will include a variety of roles from staffing entrances, to helping vendors and artists set up exhibits and displays and assisting the performers to running the vital cultural components of this event.
“Because we’re a minority, we don’t have a big campus population, so sometimes our culture is the only thing we have. We need to celebrate it, or otherwise you can just feel lost,” Skenandore said.
The Annual Powwow also is an attempt to bridge the boundaries of the University and all of the eleven Tribal Nations which reside in the state.
The powwow will be a fluid event including dancing, cultural demonstrations and performances. The Grand Entry, which occurs at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and on Sunday at 1 p.m., will feature the Ho-Chunk and Mohican Nation Color Guards, who will lead this opening dance followed by the Head Staff.
The dancers, drummers and the staff participating in the OWASP 2016 are prominent in the powwow community and have been recognized nationally for their participation on the powwow circuit. This year they include: Host Drum Blackstone (Sweet Grass First Nations- Canada), Youth Host Hay Creek (Lac Courte Oreilles), Co-Host Pipestone (Lac Courte Oreilles), Co-Host Ho-Chunk Station (Ho-Chunk/Potawatomi), Head Man Stewart Boivin (Menominee), Head Lady Grace Pushetonequa (Meskwaki), Junior Head Man Brevin Boyd (Lakota/Potawatomi), Junior Head Lady Symone Pemma (Potawatomi), Master of Ceremonies Dylan Prescott (Ho-Chunk/Potawatomi), Isaiah Stewart (Oglala Lakota) and Gerald Cleveland (Ho-Chunk), and Arena Director Randy Paskemin (Sweet Grass First Nations-Canada).
The Masters of Ceremony will keep the crowd informed by explaining what’s happening throughout the Grand Entry and the dancing that follows. Participants will witness six main styles of exhibition dancing, including men’s traditional, fancy and grass styles, and women’s traditional, fancy and jingle styles. There also will be intertribal dancing, which is open to everyone including audience members.
The event offers participants a Native American cultural experience rarely seen in this area. There will be more than 20 traditional and contemporary American Indian art vendors as well as traditional Native foods, including wild rice soup, venison dishes, Indian tacos and Fry Bread.
This year’s event will have an enhanced interactive Kids Activity Area, where children can learn about the Three Sisters, a south eastern United States tradition of growing main agricultural crops of beans, corn and winter squash together in a sustainable combination. They’ll learn the science behind why and how these three crops grow well together, about sustainable agricultural and wildlife management, and the importance of tribal sovereignty.
Other learning adventures will be hosted by the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), including live samples of invasive animal species like lampreys. The Raptor Education Group, Inc., (REGI) will bring and teach about hawks on Sunday. Some of the attending dancers also will discuss their regalia and the appropriate use of feathers.
Doors will be open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. Parking is $7 per car. UW Housing will provide free buses for UW-Madison students from the west and east sides of campus running every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Co-sponsored by multiple departments, units and programs, and the Native American student groups at UW-Madison, including Wunk Sheek, Alpha Pi Omega Sorority, Inc., , and the American Indian Science, Engineering Society the Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement’s Pathways Program.