The University of Iowa American Indian Student Association is celebrating its 20th year of hosting a pow wow by continuing the tradition and honoring its founders and those who supported its early start. And a quick look at the pow wow's head staff reveals that this will be a truly special event.
Head staff for the 2013 Univeristy of Iowa Pow Wow, April 13-14 in Iowa City: Howie Thomson, Carry the Kettle First Nation, is the MC; Wayne Silas Jr., Oneida/Menominee, head man; Winona Kingbird, Comanche/Dakota, head woman; Joel Syrette, Anishinaabe, drum judge; Larry Yazzie, Meskwaki/Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi, arena director, and Midnight Express, host drum.
“I think we have a really great head staff and it will be a great pow wow this year. I hope a lot of people will be able to join us,” said Kyleshawn Stead, president of the student association.
This year, the pow wow will feature specials and dance competitions in traditional, grass/jingle and fancy over its two days at the university's recreation building. “The university has had specials in the past, and we wanted to continue that tradition. We asked our head staff if they would like to hold any specials and both our headman and headwoman wanted to put on hand drum specials,” said Stead. “One of our alumni and his family also wanted to throw a special in honor of their family in Iowa and we thought it was appropriate to allow this kind of special,” he added.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the University of Iowa Pow Wow, which was launched in 1990 by an alumni group composed of Orrenzo Snyder, Diné, Larry Lasley, Meskwaki, Alex Walker, Meskwaki, Judy Morrison, Osage, and Stephanie Griffith, Dakota.
The growth was remarkable—from a one-day event it grew to three days, with 350 dancers, 18 drum groups and 60 arts and craft vendors. The budget ballooned from $3,000 to $90,000. By 2004, though, the Native student association found itself with thousands of dollars in debt, and with the dwindling amount of Native students in the university, decided to discontinue the pow wow. It was resuscitated several years later with the support of the association's dedicated members.
“Over the last few years we have tried to grow our pow wow back to the status it once held and are making our way back growing every year,” said Stead.
He hopes thousands of people will come and that many tribes will be represented, adding that the highlight of this 20th anniversary pow wow is the celebration of Native life at the university and the coming together of students, alumni and the community to celebrate Native heritage.
As specials, Silas is sponsoring the 1-Man Hand Drum Contest, while Kingbird is sponsoring the Youth Hand Drum. The Men’s Northern Traditional and Women’s Appliqué Specials are staged by the Snyder Family in memory of Frank and Bernice Sanache.
Orrenzo Snyder, one of the pow wow founders, wanted to honor his Meskwaki family from Tama, Iowa, said Stead. Snyder was adopted by the Sanaches, who have since walked on, when he was attending medical school at the university. The Sanaches were esteemed members of the Meskawaki community.
“Dr. Snyder has said many times that without their support he would not have been able to stay in Iowa and finish his education,” said Stead.
It is with the spirit of helping other Native students at the university that the pow wow is continuing its tradition. “Overall, the pow wow has helped recruit Native students to the university and retain them.”