11 Native Drums, 115 Native dancers

Ku-Ah-Mah hosted the 45th annual Pah-Loots-Puu Powwow on April 16 at Beasley Coliseum



Native dancers performing at the 45th annual Pah-Loots-Puu Powwow, April 16.

NIKHIL GANTA, Evergreen reporter

The heart-pounding beating of 11 drums resonated throughout Beasley Coliseum during the 45th annual Pah-Loots-Puu Powwow on April 16, organized by the Native American Student Organization, Ku-Ah-Mah.

Powwows are social events typically hosted by Native American tribes that feature drummers, dancers and vendors selling a variety of jewelry and foods, Ku-Ah-Mah advisor Joelle Edwards said.

Ku-Ah-Mah coordinated and organized the event, with participation from the Native American Women’s Association and the Multicultural Greek Council. Students of Edwards’ Powwow class also planned part of the event, Edwards said. The class is offered in the spring for students to teach other students skills for planning a Powwow.

“[The Powwow is] just the way to experience culture, that you maybe have not gotten to experience before,” Edwards said. “I think WSU, we do have native students at this university, it’s just a way that we can bring maybe something from their home community here on campus.”

Ku-Ah-Mah split the event into two Grand Entries, which mark the beginning of a Powwow. One Grand Entry was at 12 p.m., the other at 5 p.m.

The 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. Grand Entries were nearly identical, apart from the hosting of a Memorandum of Understanding acknowledgment at the start of the 5 p.m. entry, Edwards said.

The MOU is an agreement and partnership between the Native American tribes and WSU, Edwards said. There are WSU students, staff and faculty from 13 different tribes, and honoring the MOU entails that WSU serves them and looks out for their care and well-being.

Vendors at the event sold items such as beaded items, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, medallions, t-shirts, cat toys, reusable bags, printed materials, native coloring books, beaded hats, sweatshirts, turquoise items, white moccasins and premade regalia. Vendors also sold Indian Fry Bread, Indian Tacos and other food at concession stands.

There were also informational tables featuring community resources with information such as how to apply for grants.

“It’s really fun, you know, going to these university Powwows, attending them, cause there’s always like a good energy and a lot of visitors,” Colville Indian Reservation member Monica Warriors Pistolbullet said.

A Native Drum performing at the 45th annual Pah-Loots-Puu Powwow, April 16.

The 5 p.m. Grand Entry kicked off with Thomas Morning Owl, MC of the night, initiating a drum roll call. The 11 groups of drummers, each called a Drum, beat their respective drums one by one while Morning Owl called out the names of each Drum.

Following this, all 115 participating dancers lined up in a row and danced into the center of Beasley Coliseum, forming a large circle.

During this time, a tribe member presented the Eagle Staff, a flag Native American tribes carried before the arrival of colonists that represented their tribes and families.

Following was a flag song, a national anthem that honors indigenous veterans, then a prayer.

Next, Morning Owl called representatives from each tribe to the center of the stage. The representatives carried their tribal flags to honor the MOU, with the Morning Owl narrating the MOU’s meaning and significance. Morning Owl then called past Powwow contest winners to the front of the stage to greet the tribal representatives with a handshake.

The Head Man and Head Woman for this Powwow were Sam Riding In and Bridget Eaglespeaker respectively. The Head Man and Head Woman oversee leading the dancers and also host a special dance, Edwards said.

Morning Owl then called Edwards on stage to speak, then Nez, who welcomed and thanked everyone for their attendance.

The 45th annual Powwow is considered a Contest Powwow, Edwards said. After the introduction commenced a series of contests with multiple categories of contest dancers, who ranged from children to teens to adults. Wild Rose, the host Drum for the night, provided the music they danced to.

Native dancers performing at the 45th annual Pah-Loots-Puu Powwow, April 16.

The remaining portion of the night was filled with dancers competing for prizes in all categories: Teen Jingle, Teen Girl Fancy, Teen Boy Fancy, Teen Boy Grass, Teen Boy Traditional Contest, Adult Men Traditional, Adult Men Grass, Adult Men Fancy, Adult Women Traditional, Adult Women Jingle and Adult Women Fancy.

Wildhorse Resort and Casino sponsored the Adult Women Traditional, Adult Women Jingle and Adult Women Fancy contest categories.

At the end of the contests, Morning Owl brought sponsors Nakia Williamson-Cloud and other Cloud family members in front of the stage to speak. The Clouds also hosted a 40-minute traditional special dance.

The night ended with Morning Owl announcing the first-, second- and third-place winners of each category.

Edwards planned and coordinated the event with arena director Buck Wallahee, who aided in making sure the event was moving smoothly, Edwards said.

ASWSU fundraised for the event, and the president’s office paid for the rental of Beasley Coliseum, Edwards said.

Zoe Higheagle Strong, Native American Relations and Programs vice provost and tribal liaison to the president, advocated for reciprocity through funding from WSU, a land grant university, Edwards said.

“It’s such an event that can be enjoyed by all ages, so it’s cool to have it on campus and accessible to the community … it’s just really a way to just bring everyone together here at WSU,”  Edwards said.