Buffalo burgers and venison sausage were on the menu at only one place on campus this weekend.
Payne Whitney Gymnasium hosted the fourth annual Yale Powwow on Saturday and Sunday. This year marked the first time the event, sponsored by the Association of Native Americans At Yale, lasted for two days instead of one.
Organizers and students said they enjoyed the powwow, but some crafts vendors said they thought there should be more student interest in the event. The event attracted visitors and competitors from all over the United States and Canada.
At an opening ceremony, male participants in elaborate outfits performed a war dance to heavy, thick-sounding drums. Sparkling in sequins, Native American women simultaneously danced to the rhythm.
Though she had witnessed previous powwows in Seattle, audience member Andia Winslow ’04 expressed amazement.
“It’s just beautiful,” Winslow said while watching the opening ceremony.
She added that the Yale Powwow seemed a lot bigger and more diverse than the ones she attended in Seattle.
Organizers at Yale doubled the prize money for the dance contest and added a drum contest this year, with each competition awarding $10,000 in prize money. Wizipan Garriott ’03, the president of the Association of Native Americans At Yale, said the group extended the length of the powwow in an effort to increase Native American participation and local support.
Garriott said he was pleased with the results.
“This year there is more participants, especially [Saturday], more spectators, more dancers, more drums and more vendors selling crafts,” Garriott said.
But some vendors did not agree with Garriott. Naniwea, a Michigan vendor who declined to give her last name, said she was disappointed with a lower-than-expected turnout.
Nicole Willis ’05, the chairwoman for the Yale Powwow, said she hopes the group eventually will make the powwow a three-day event.
Garriott said the biggest hurdle for the Association of Native Americans At Yale is a lack of funding, and that the $36,000 needed to host the powwow did not come easily. He said the group raised money through “grants, personal donations, private and corporate donations, and alumni donations.”
Coca-Cola and Mohegan Sun Casinos jointly donated $5,000, Willis said.
Audience member Gautam Gururaj ’05 said he believed the powwow was appropriate for Yale.
“The powwow raises awareness and is rare in this area,” Gururaj said. “It’s good that Yale had one.”
Garriott said the Association of Native Americans At Yale plans to work to increase awareness of the event next year. He added that the group plans to file for status as a nonprofit organization, which would allow it to petition for more grant money.
Publicity and size are major concerns for Willis.
“We don’t have an official Native American ethnic counselor, a Native American faculty member, a Native American studies program,” Willis said. “Our network is small, and we have to be a tight group; even though we are from different tribes, we are one group at Yale.”
But Willis said she remains optimistic about future Yale Powwows.
“Out of all the Ivy schools, Yale has the least Native American students, professors and support, but the biggest and best powwow,” Willis said. “That just shows us what we can do.”
Garriott said he sees the powwow as an opportunity for Yale and the Native American community to share.
“Today’s multicultural world demands an institution like Yale, one of the best educational centers, to add our part and give the Native American community an opportunity to be heard and seen and share with them our culture,” he said. “[The powwow] is a cultural dialogue.”