Native American dancers, drummers, musicians and vendors from across the country gathered in Coxe Cage on Sunday for the seventh annual Powwow hosted by the Association of Native Americans at Yale, or ANAAY.
The powwow, attended by over 300 students, alumni and family members, coincided with ANNAY’s 25th anniversary. Modern powwows, such as Sunday’s celebration, are social events held by indigenous communities to honor native cultures. Artisans also frequently travel between powwows to sell crafted goods.
After an arena blessing, Sunday’s powwow featured various performances and then concluded with a dance put on by ANAAY members who organized the powwow.
“It’s a very safe space for a lot of native students,” said Kinsale Hueston ’22, a member of ANAAY of Navajo descent. “And the resources we have are really amazing.”
ANAAY hosted the annual powwow last fall for the first time in roughly a decade. Hueston said other Ivy League schools, such as Dartmouth, also have powwows, but Yale’s native community and powwow are smaller. Still, Hueston said that the Yale native community’s small size has made them more tight-knit and collaborative.
And in the future, Hueston said, ANAAY would like to receive more funding and publicity from Yale.
Cicily Werito, a junior at Columbia University of Navajo descent, said she traveled to New Haven last weekend to support fellow native students in the Ivy League.
“Even though we’re a minority population in these white institutions, when we have these Ivy native conferences, that’s when we can meet each other,” Werito said. “Just because there’s such a small population, I think that makes the community even closer because we really stick to each other for support.”
Werito, who danced at the powwow, cited dance as a form of bonding between different tribes.
Amalia FourHawks — a vendor of Apache descent who, alongside her husband, specializes in homemade sterling silver and turquoise jewelry and beading — said that she and her husband have traveled to over 300 powwows across the country, and observed that community has been crucial to each of the powwows.
“I really like it when people say, ‘Oh I’ve never been to a powwow before, it’s my first time,’” FourHawks said. “That way we know we’re exposing more people to a culture they might not have seen or they might not have known about.”
Attendees at powwows tend to hail from a variety of different backgrounds, according to Hues and FourHawks. With more than 560 tribes in the United States, Hues said that there is never just one tribe at a powwow. Nonnatives will also attend the events for the food and dancing, Hues added.
FourHawks said it is now also more common to find multi-tribal families in Native communities, including her own — FourHawks’ husband has Mohawk and Cheyenne roots, while FourHawks has Apache heritage, she said. She added that her husband’s sister is married to someone of Navajo descent, and her grandchildren are marrying people of various different tribes.
“People don’t look at each other the same way as they did in history,” she said.
Werito also emphasized that even though many of her colleagues are from different tribes, they all share that same native background.
The seventh annual Powwow coincided with the weekend of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a celebration of indigenous ancestors. ANAAY recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Day in lieu of Columbus Day.
Chase Warren ’20, a member of ANAAY, said that the Indigenous Peoples’ Day supports the resilience of indigenous nations in spite of the hardships they suffered at the hands of Europeans like Christopher Columbus.
“F— Columbus,” said Jacob Rosales ’21, a member of ANAAY, when asked about Columbus Day.
ANAAY was founded in 1989.
Alayna Lee | firstname.lastname@example.org