Members of the Association of Native Americans at Yale said this weekend may be the Yale Powwow’s final bow, unless the group gets increased University support for the celebration.
ANAAY member Nicole Willis ’05 said this year’s fifth annual powwow has an approximate budget of $46,000, which the group raised almost entirely on its own. Assistant Dean of Yale College Rosalinda Garcia, director of both the Native American and Latin American Cultural Centers, asserted Yale’s contributions accounted for approximately one third of ANAAY’s budget last year. However, Willis confirmed that only one fifth of the powwow’s budget comes from various university sources, none of which are part of an annual university budget plan.
This weekend’s two-day powwow will bring together Native American people from different tribes across the North American continent, as well as a smattering of people from South America. Annette Saunooke ’03 said the event, held in Payne Whitney Gymnasium, will be free and open to the public and will showcase drum groups, dancers, and vendors selling food and crafts.
Since the Powwow brings Yale sizeable publicity, inadequate funding from the University is unfair, ANAAY members said.
“It really gives Yale a national reputation to have people all over talking about it — a group of people who wouldn’t know about [Yale],” Willis said.
Though ANAAY works on Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Native American History month with other student groups, the Powwow has special meaning for ANAAY, members said.
“Because it’s an inter-tribal event, it’s the only thing that’s representative,” Faith Rosetta ’06 said. “Though we’re all similar, we all come from different tribes.”
ANAAY members decried the cycle of Native American underappreciation at Yale.
“The University thinks we don’t need as much support because we’re small,” Willis said. “It’s just the opposite. We have two people graduating, which cuts our number in half. Consistently, we only have one or two people working on [the Powwow]. There really isn’t anything to attract Native American students to Yale.”
Willis said the combination of limited manpower and insufficient University support forced her and a few other ANAAY members to spend countless hours fundraising — more than on work and classes combined.
“We applied for a grant through Coke — We didn’t get as much as we thought we would. Most other Ivy League universities have $15,000 to $20,000,” Willis said. “Yale has the biggest powwow, and a zero allotted budget.”
Garcia said she did not know how Yale’s funding of the powwow compares to that of other East Coast schools. But Yale’s powwows are more expensive than those at other universities, she said.
“I spoke to the person that advises the Native American students at Harvard and he explained to me that they don’t even give award money to their dancers. They focus on participation and recognize them in other ways,” Garcia said. “As he mentioned to me in a conversation we had, ‘It’s not that we don’t want to recognize the dancers, but our budget does not allow us to–‘ So, it’s obvious that budgets are something all student groups struggle with because these events can be very costly.”
But Garcia said she is willing to work with ANAAY and hold a smaller, cheaper event on Cross Campus or Old Campus for a few hours.
But ANAAY members said they do not want to lose the powwow, which they say is more than just a Native American activity.
“The administration has a rough time seeing it as [more than] an event just for ANAAY,” Willis said. “The powwow is something of value to this community that could be lost if we don’t get more support.”