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George Vlahakis
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Wesley Thomas
First Nations at IU

Last modified: Monday, March 22, 2004

First Nations at IU to hold pow wow at Bloomington on March 26-28

Photo by: Wesley Thomas

Print-Quality Photo

EDITORS: Publication-quality photographs of previous pow wows are available on the Web at

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In a flourish of traditional drums, dancing and regalia, Native Americans will gather at Indiana University Bloomington on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (March 26-28) to share history, culture and arts at the Third Annual First Nations Pow Wow.

All events will be in the IU Fieldhouse, located at the corner of 17th Street and Fee Lane on the north side of the Bloomington campus. All events are open to the public and admission is free. They will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, at noon on Saturday and at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Wesley Thomas, IUB assistant professor of anthropology and organizer of the event, said there will be several new activities this year that will highlight the connections between indigenous peoples in the United States and abroad.

For example, the Fukishima Kodåly Choir, from Hokkaido, Japan, will perform music of the Ainu people. The Ainu were early inhabitants of Hokkaido, and they have been oppressed as a minority group for many years. Ainu culture, particularly their musical tradition, is markedly different from Japanese culture and is based on their deep connection to the land. They will perform at the pow wow at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

At last year's pow wow, Meredith Isbell of Louisville, Ky., who is of Cherokee and Cree heritage, was selected as the First Nations Pow Wow Princess. To mark the end of her reign, native protocol requires that she, her family members and relatives provide meals for the entire audience and dancers. The feed will be from 5 to 6 p.m. on Saturday. At 2 p.m. on Sunday, she will conduct a "give away," which is an act of reciprocity, as part of a ritual to convey appreciation to those who have supported her as the First Nations Pow Wow Princess.

Another Pow Wow Princess will be selected at 9 p.m. on Saturday. Candidates will be judged on criteria based on cultural knowledge rather than physical beauty, and they must be of Native American descent.

As always, the pow wow will include nearly 50 booths of authentic American Indian arts and crafts and performances by drum groups, singers and gourd dancers. A highlight will be the ceremonial "grand entries" by American Indians representing tribes from across the United States into the IU Fieldhouse for traditional dancing. Native American food will be available for purchase.

The event is being presented by the American Indian Student Association and First Nations at Indiana University. Thomas said that having the pow wow at IU Bloomington is important as an educational opportunity for the university community and the public.

At the IU Pow Wow, observers can look to Leonard Malatare, a Salish tribal member from Chicago, Ill., who will be master of ceremonies, and Steve Yazzie, a Navajo who will be arena director, for commentary that will explain pow wow tradition and etiquette.

The dancing cannot happen without the drum, an essential part of Native American culture. The pow wow will include northern and southern drums. The northern drum features the faster drum beat and higher-pitched singers that are characteristic of northern American Indian tribes, while the southern drum represents the slower beat and lower pitch of southern tribes.

This is a "closed" pow wow, meaning only all Native American drums and dancers are welcome to perform with the host and invited drums. At times the general audience will be invited to dance. Maza Napin Family Drum of Peeples, Ohio, will provide northern songs and Moccasin Trail of Mooresville, Ind., will be the host drum.

There will be dance competitions and exhibitions on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon.

Shawn Foye, a Comanche/Sac-Fox/Pawnee from Mooresville, Ind., will be the head male dancer, and Sonya Begay, a Navajo from Lexington, Ky., will be the head female dancer. The IU ROTC Color Guard will serve as flag bearers.

As has become traditional at pow wows, the Gourd Dance will be performed as a prelude to each of the scheduled grand entries. All Native American dances have a special meaning, and the Gourd Dance, originated by the Kiowa, is a warrior's dance.

The Grand Entry will follow a specific order with American Indian veterans of the U.S. military leading the processional in native regalia and with American, state and tribal flags. Older men, who will dance the traditional dances of their various tribes, will follow, and then will come the younger men, who will dance more contemporary dances.

People attending their first pow wow should be aware of basic etiquette, which, according to Thomas, is mostly simple respect and common sense. For example, ask permission before taking photos of dancers before, during or after dances.

For those coming from out of town, information about lodgings and RV parking is available from the Bloomington Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-800-0037 or

Sponsors of the pow wow are the Office of the Vice President for Student Development and Diversity, the Office of Research, the University Graduate School, the Office of the Chancellor, the Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs, the Glenn Black Laboratory and the Department of Anthropology.

For more information about the pow wow, contact Thomas at 812-855-3862 or Information also is available at