Saving Face: Fraternity That Threw Cowboys and Indians Party Co-Sponsors Pow Wow
Two months following an apology by leaders of Lambda Chi Alpha to members of the Native Student Alliance at the University of Denver (DU) for a cowboys and Indians theme party, the fraternity has agreed to co-sponsor the upcoming University of Denver Contest Pow Wow hosted by the Native Student Alliance (NSA).
“First of all, (the Native Student Alliance) has our unconditional support,” said Ross Larson, Lambda Chi’s vice president. “We want to show our support any way we can. I think this is a huge first step.”
In a response to calls by students for more efforts toward inclusive excellence, DU administration recently allocated $6,500 to the NSA for its powwow and designated the cultural gathering as a DU Presidential Debate signature event.
The university is slated to host the first of three presidential debates between President Barack Obama and likely GOP candidate Mitt Romney on October 3 and has scheduled a mélange of campus events, including the powwow, leading up to the presidential showdown.
Jessica Pearl Salas, a senior and NSA president, said she was pleasantly surprised by the university’s considerable donation, which she said helped elevate the powwow to competition status.
“I was so surprised that they gave us that kind of money,” she said. “It felt great to know that the administration cared enough to ensure that our powwow could be as we envisioned it.”
Salas, 21, a Yaqui, Navajo and Lipan Apache, said the donation came courtesy of the university’s debate fund.
“Backing us with that kind of money is something we previously thought would have never happened,” Salas said, “but knowing that we can have these sort of relationships and aide on this campus is honestly one of the best feelings I’ve had as a DU student in my four years.”
The annual powwow will be held May 19 on Driscoll Green, located on the DU campus, and will include fry bread, courtesy of Tocabe—a Denver-area American Indian eatery, free booths for any vendors, money for drum groups and contests in a variety of dance categories for juniors, teens and adults.
According to Larson, members of Lambda Chi Alpha will host an information booth during the powwow to show their support of the NSA as well as the greater American Indian community.
While the fraternity isn’t a financial co-sponsor, their support is more cultural. Johanna Leyba, associate provost for multicultural excellence, said the information booth manned by Lambda Chi Alpha will provide background information to classmates concerning the history of powwows.
“I thought what would be useful for Lambda Chi is to do some research,” Leyba said. “I asked them to look up the current meaning (of powwows) and what they’re about because I know there’s been an evolution of powwows.”
Leyba, who’ll be at the Lambda Chi booth Saturday, said she’ll make certain the data the fraternity students collect is empirical and accurate.
“We’re going to make sure that it’s OK,” she said. “I’ll be working with them on it.”
And Salas said she expects a much larger turnout this year, especially with the support of DU.
“I know the turnout was fairly good last year, but it was mostly by our own community, not the DU community,” Salas said. “There wasn’t a lot of initiative from the DU.”
“(The powwow) is a priority for the university,” said DU Provost Gregg Kvistad during a meeting recently with NSA leaders.
Amanda Williams, 19, a San Carlos Apache and Diné and a junior at DU, said she’s taken aback by the willingness of Lambda Chi to work alongside NSA.
“I think, all in all, it’s good that they’re stepping up to the plate,” she said. “I congratulate them on that. It’s surprising that they’re actually giving their support to more than Greek life.”
Williams added that although she’s appreciative of DU’s large donation to NSA and the powwow, she’s worried that others could see it as a handout.
“I’m glad DU wanted to give money to us, but we don’t need handouts,” she said. “We should be able to handle things on our own. That’s just traditional.”
Larson, who studies marketing and legal studies, said he has never been to a powwow, but that he did last spring walk by NSA’s inaugural powwow and that he was quite curious about what they include.
“I definitely remember seeing last year’s,” he said. “I have no idea what to expect.”
Grand entry is scheduled for 3 p.m. on May 19. For more information, check out the event's facebook page.
University of Denver Spring Pow Wow 2011, Part 1
University of Denver Spring Pow Wow 2011, Part 2