The 17th Annual Social Pow Wow, which was held in Cone Field House last Saturday, focused on community and education.
The pow wow was a sprawling event that had a variety of activities, including a dance contest, a raffle and a food court.
“The unique part of our pow wow is that it’s education-based,” said Adrianna Nicolay (‘19), the president and treasurer of the Native and Indigenous Student Union (NISU). “It’s supposed to be a learning experience.”
The pow wow was designed to teach community members about Indigenous cultures. Every person who attended the pow wow was offered a pamphlet that explained the different important roles, songs and dances in the event.
Bob Tom, the master of ceremonies, also played a role in helping everyone understand the pow wow. Tom has been the master of ceremonies for every Social Pow Wow hosted at Willamette. He explained each section of the ceremony as it unfolded.
“We don’t start any event without a Grand Entry,” he said.
The Grand Entry, which lasted about an hour, was made up of all the dancers and performers, who paraded through the gymnasium in full regalia. Special care was paid to veterans.
“The warrior is held in high regard,” the pamphlet said, “and we do our best to honor them and draw attention to their valor and courage.”
Dancing continued throughout the pow wow. A contest also took place.
“Every year we have a dance contest. This year, it’s men’s traditional,” Nicolay said. “Pow wow is a pan-Indigenous thing, so it doesn’t represent specific cultures.”
Aside from dancing, there was a raffle. Prizes, such as blankets, jewelry and hotel stays, were donated by the vendors and casinos. Each raffle ticket cost a dollar.
Nicolay said, “To me, it’s not really business — it’s welcoming the community back.” Many of the vendors have been with the pow wow since it was founded.
Alexus Uentillie (‘19), a Willamette student who has been to four pow wows and is also involved in NISU, said the community is what makes her want to return. She said she has gotten to know the pow wow regulars over the years.
“And now I’m excited to introduce this guy to everybody,” Uentillie said, holding up her newborn baby.
The pow wow is hosted by NISU. Planning it, Nicolay said, is a difficult job and a long process.
“The planning for pow wow actually starts today, for next year’s pow wow,” she said.
She is dedicated to putting on these events because students requested them.
“It was started by students,” she said. “They said that they felt they weren’t represented by events on campus.”
According to Nicolay, the attendance was down this year, and attendance is important to her because she wants to raise awareness about Indigenous issues.
“I just really want people to come,” she said. “We are disconnected from the fact that our campus was built on Kalapuya land.”
The Social Pow Wow, which is held every year, is open to the community.
“I think pow wow does a good job of opening up that conversation,” Nicolay said. “I would welcome anyone to join.”