98th Annual OU Powwow

Oklahoma / May 22, 2012 / by The Team

For one day in April, the Lloyd Noble Center at the University of Oklahoma was host, not to the usual basketball, but to the 98th Spring Contest Powwow. A yearly event, this powwow brings together Native Americans from across the country for food, speeches and dancing. 

The spring contest is organized by the American Indian Student Association at OU (AISA). In collaboration with other Native American organizations, they hold what is now the longest running student-led powwow in the country and the world every year. 

David Colbert, Mr Indian OU, explains that “a powwow is an inter-tribal Native American dance,” and it allows people from across the country to come together and celebrate their history and culture. 

The powwow is “a way for us to remind ourselves and our children and our grandchildren that we are Indian,” says one participant. It allows students at OU to learn more about their culture as well as the traditions of other tribes. 

Colbert explains that “it’s important for them to have a way, an outlet to express their culture and to show that, and have that as a physical manifestation, such as a powwow, and that allows them to connect to their roots and connect to their people and their culture and it is a way of preserving that.”

It also benefits the public and “other students here at OU campus who don’t know about the Native American traditions and the Native American culture”, explains Samantha Bachman, Miss Indian OU. The powwow is open to anybody who wishes to attend and allows people from across campus and the state to experience an important part of American culture. 

Although contest itself began 7pm, the celebrations were in full swing much earlier in the day. With doors open in the early afternoon, the Lloyd Noble Center was full of people carrying brightly colored outfits, ready for the contest later in the day, as well as stands selling jewelry and programs. 

Food was provided for all the participants and guests before the contest began, giving those who had been singing and dancing all afternoon some welcome sustenance but also allowing the public to sample Native American food. 

The contest itself was preceded by dances and traditional speeches of thanks and prayer, welcoming all the participants and guests to the powwow. 

The grand entry opened the contest and introduced the participants. The traditional Native clothes worn by the participants were in shown in their full splendor as they entered the arena. The different tribes all wearing their traditional clothing filled the center with both bright colors and wonderful sounds from the bells on some clothes.

The enthusiasm of both participants and audience was evident throughout the day.  It allowed “many nations to come together and show their own tribe and their own tribal ways,” says Bachman and year after year, ensures the culture and history of Native Americans is passed on from generation to generation as well as spread throughout the University and beyond.