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Charly Haley, Published April 13 2013

‘Everybody welcome’ at annual powwow

MOORHEAD – People of all ages and different nationalities gathered Saturday at Minnesota State University Moorhead for the 24th annual Woodlands and High Plains Powwow.

The powwow, a Native American cultural celebration of song and dance, was all-day event at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse.

“This is just one of the small aspects of our culture,” said Mickey Hodges, the event’s master of ceremonies.

The task of hosting the powwow is usually passed between MSUM, North Dakota State University and Concordia College, but this was the first year Minnesota State Community and Technical College sponsored the event, said Prairie Rose Seminole, an arena assistant. It was held in Nemzek because MSCTC doesn’t have a large enough facility, she said.

Like every year, Saturday’s powwow was open to the public.

“Nobody’s excluded, everybody’s welcome. Because we want to bridge this – us and the rest of the world,” Hodges said.

He said he’s experienced situations where he didn’t feel welcomed because he’s Native, and powwows are the opposite of that, with the goal of accepting everyone into Native culture.

Nemzek was set up with bleachers circling a dance area, so observers could watch people perform. Dancers wore traditional regalia with beads, feathers and many different colored fabrics. Along with singing and dancing, there was a drum circle and the White Earth Reservation Honor Guard.

Audience members were even invited to join the dancers during some songs.

“Whether you’re dancing in the arena, you’re singing or you’re just an observer, you’re still a participant in the celebration. It’s a social gathering, to celebrate life,” Seminole said.

There was also food served at the event, and vendors sold items like jewelry and art.

In the eight years Hodges has been involved in the powwow, he said he’s seen it grow incredibly.

This year, though, the crowd was a little smaller.

“This year we’ve got six powwows going at the same time,” Hodges said. The others were in Minneapolis, Bemidji, St. Cloud, Sisseton, S.D., and Duluth.

“When you have powwows like that, it divides up the dancers and their loyalties to the powwows,” he said.

Many different tribes were still represented at Saturday’s event though, Seminole said. There were probably members from about 21 different tribes, she said.

“This is a really unique area, because this is where the woodlands meets the plains,” which brings tribes from both regions, Seminole said.

The powwow does sometimes receive ignorant remarks, especially because it’s always held on college campuses where many passersby may not understand the celebration, Seminole said. But she and others try to use that as an opportunity to share their culture, she said.

“This is carrying on a legacy,” Seminole said. “We’re sharing a culture and a way of life. We’re doing it for our people, and we’re sharing that with the world around us.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Charly Haley at (701) 235-7311