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Pow Wow vital to Native American culture

staff writer

Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 23:03

Members of the USU Native American Student Council worked to keep culture alive in hosting the 40th annual Pow Wow on March 1-2 in the Fieldhouse.

Jason Brough, NASC president, said events like the Pow Wow show the world that Native Americans are not going anywhere.

“Native Americans, you know, we have suffered many generations of cultural and physical genocide,” Brough said. “The fact that we’re still having our powwows, the fact that we’re having our sacred ceremonies is extremely vital to the survival of our culture.”

Dancers and drummers from Utah, Idaho and as far as Washington competed in different categories over the weekend. Vendors lined walls inside the Fieldhouse, selling jewelry, clothing and food as drummer groups sang and the dancers competed in their various categories. Stacie Denestosie, recently crowned Miss American Indian USU, led the Grand Entry, or first dance of the PowWow.

Even if Native Americans at USU do not come from a background that teaches them about culture, they can participate in NASC and learn more, Denestosie said. The Pow Wow is a place to teach the youth, she said.

“Lead by example. The youth see their elders there dancing and representing who they are, and where they come from, and I think that’s just a really good platform for the younger generation to get involved,” Denestosie said.

A Navajo, Denestosie lived on a reservation the first four years of her life and then moved to Smithfield. She said she stays connected to her culture through her extended family, which is very traditional. Her family raises livestock, and she went through a womanhood ceremony when she turned 15.

Culture and not necessarily traditions are important to Blade Garlow, a freshman lacrosse player who grew up on Cattaraugus Reservation in New York. Garlow lived on the reservation until he was 14 and moved to Utah to play lacrosse for USU.

The reservation Garlow grew up on is well off and members living there have benefits like not having to pay taxes, free health care and training for athletes, he said.

Other than the benefits, living on the reservation was like living anywhere else, Garlow said.

However, one reservation differs from another, Garlow said.

“I think our rez is really well off, so it’s not a big difference as compared to out West,” Garlow said. “Our rez has a lot of nice stuff and a really lot of nice resources.”

Denestosie, who lived on the Navajo reservation, said education is different there than in the public school she attended in Cache Valley.

“They have a lot more education based around being Navajo and just integrating that into everyday school,” Denestosie said.

The Pow Wow not only helps Native Americans connect to culture but also teaches the public, said Gabrielle George, a junior in food technology and NASC secretary.

“I feel like students don’t really have a good idea about different tribes,” George said. “They kind of have a broad idea of what Native Americans are and where they’re from, but I feel like if we can get more people involved with our club, they can experience the culture, and if they come to the Pow Wow, they can experience many different types of cultures and tribes and talk to different people.”

George, a Navajo who grew up in South Ogden, said she stayed acquainted with the culture through attending powwows with her mother, who runs a booth selling food. 

Being Native American affected former Miss American Indian USU Lindsay June’s choice in major. June said the biggest thing to her about being Native American is that she wants to be a chiropractor because of the connection she feels to nature.

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