Mara Lavitt

The Association of Native Americans at Yale announced last November that they obtained University funding to host a biennial powwow — a celebration of Indigenous people and culture. 

ANAAY hosted consecutive powwows in 2017 and 2018, but the social event was absent from campus life for over a decade before that. The most recent powwow coincided with ANAAY’s 25th anniversary and the weekend of Indigenous Peoples’ Day — a commemoration of Indigenous ancestors in lieu of Columbus Day. According to the announcement, securing institutional funding “[had] been a goal of ANAAY’s since its founding in 1989.” With this new funding — which comes from the Yale College Dean’s Office as a payment of $20,000 every two years — Yale’s campus is guaranteed a biennial powwow.

“This institutional support is necessary in order to keep the powwow an integral part of the Yale experience, not only for Native students, but for the Yale community as a whole,” ANAAY’s statement read. “We’re excited to be able to continue to share dancing, food, and music with the Yale community, and with each other.”

Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun told the News last September that the University “[planned] on providing institutional support for the powwows” before the start of the new year. He noted that while it was not “feasible” to have the powwow yearly, he discussed a more appropriate schedule with Native leaders out of a desire to “relieve the fundraising burden from the students.”

ANAAY’s announcement underscored the fundraising efforts Chun mentioned. According to the announcement, past powwows have been possible through fundraising and external grants, but acquiring this revenue placed “enormous stress” on students and advisors. The statement thanked past donors, Native students and Native administrators who assisted through “years of proposals and labor.” 

This hard work came to fruition at the 2018 powwow — the seventh in Yale history. Native American dancers, drummers, musicians and vendors from across the country gathered in Coxe Cage to honor Native cultures. Over 300 students, alumni and family members were in attendance for the celebration. 

“It’s a very safe space for a lot of Native students,” Kinsale Hueston ’22 — an ANAAY member of Navajo descent — told the News in 2018. “And the resources we have are really amazing.”

Elected ANAAY President Meghanlata Gupta ’21 echoed Hueston’s sentiments, explaining that the powwow is an intertribal celebration of Indigenous life. She added that powwows often feature dancing, Native vendors, food, drum groups and other activities like contests. Gupta said that the institutionalization of the powwow is “really important” because it calls attention to Indigenous presence and survival.

Gupta said that in the past, students were so focused on securing funding for the powwow that they were unable to dedicate as much time to planning the event. With this new financial security, Gupta said that students can now “focus on the things that are really important.”

The announcement came just months after the appointment of Matthew Makomenaw and Diana Onco-Ingyadet as director and assistant director, respectively, of the Native American Cultural Center. They were appointed last June and assumed their new positions in mid-July.

“The [NACC] is proud to work with [ANAAY] to sponsor a [biennial] powwow,” Makomenaw wrote in a December email to the News. “The director and assistant director of the [NACC] listened to student voices about funding for the powwow and made a commitment to ensure that the powwow will happen every other year.”

The NACC was founded in 2013, making it the youngest of Yale’s four official cultural centers.

Zaporah Price |