“Celebrating Life” at 25th Annual CMU Pow Wow

Men in feathered headresses moved to the beat of live drums and singing, allowing the audience to experience the dances of Native American culture.

People across the United States and Canada traveled to McGuirk Arena this weekend to participate in Central Michigan University’s 25th Annual “Celebrating Life” Pow Wow. Participants danced in outfits with feathers, small cones and bright colors depending on the dance they were performing. The four dances included the traditional dance, grass dance, jingle dress dance and fancy dance, with each having a different meaning. People of all ages participated, including young children in their traditional dress.

More than 20 arts and craft vendors sold a variety of homemade items, varying from dream catchers, arrows and jewelry to clothes and jams. Native American food and beverages such as Indian Tacos and tamales were available for purchase.

The Pow Wow is an opportunity for families to honor their ceremonies and show the community and the public their culture.

Central Michigan senior Kris Anderson, was on the Pow Wow committee this year and volunteered at the event. He even got to be the emcee for a portion of it.

“I couldn’t compete this year, but I did last year,” Anderson said. “I grass danced.”

Grass dance is an ancient men’s dance that originated when elders asked young men to stomp upon tall grass in preparation to clean for a ceremony. Previously, the men would wear sweetgrass for this dance, but now wear alternative pieces of clothing to cause a grass-like effect. The dancers move to the beat of the drums, imitating the motion of grass in the wind.

The outfits that were worn by the participants are not costumes, but are the symbols of their personality and are known as a regalia.

“Some outfits depending on the beading, feathers, and patterns take anywhere from a weekend to a couple of months [to create], but most of the time family helps to make the process go faster,” Anderson said.

The Native American culture is all about respect, honesty, and valuing the past members and veterans of the community. The dancers, who are the most visible benefactors, showcase the beautiful tradition of dance that has been passed down through the generations .

Senior Julia Sawecki said this was her first time experiencing the Pow Wow.

“Seeing some of the dances and getting to see the Native American’s culture through food and arts and crafts was such an eye- opening experience that I have never witnessed before,” she said.

The outfits varied on the type of dance. Bigger headdresses were wore, some dancers had feathers, beading, bells and fringe.

Junior Kristen Skiera came to the Pow Wow to write a cultural event paper for her race, religion and discrimination class.

“The Pow Wow was very interesting and it was intriguing to watch them dance,” Skiera said. “I liked the more authentic looking outfits with the darker material, feathers and beading.”