35th Annual AISES Pow Wow celebrates culture, traditions at CSU

Mack Beaulieu

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Hundreds gathered at Colorado State University Saturday to learn about and celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., CSU, the American Indian Science and Education Society and the Native American Cultural Center held the CSU’s 35th Annual AISES Pow Wow in The Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom.

AISES hosts the Pow Wow not only to bring culture to the campus, but for students who are homesick, it’s a really good time to bring home here for them, especially if they can’t travel home for thanksgiving,” said Milena Castaneda, a CSU social work junior and NACC ASCSU senator. “And it’s also just for our heritage month to show part of our culture, part of our tradition.”

The Pow Wow started off with a Gourd Dance.

“This dance is the dance of the Red Wolf,” said Harrison Burnside, a member of the Navajo tribe. “This man that was stranded or was left behind heard this singing and drumming going on, and he crested the hill, and there was a red wolf performing this ceremony.” 

Burnside said the man memorized the song. 

“By the time it was over, he asked the Red Wolf, (and) what the Red Wolf said was, ‘Hey this is yours now,” Burnside said.  “Take this ceremony, and take it with you, back to your people,’” 

Burnside participated in the dance alongside two other performers wearing red and blue outfits. 

“The red is the clash with the Mexicans, and the blue is with the clash with the United States,” Burnside said. “Then it would represent also the land. … The yellow’s the life. The blue is the sky, and the red is the earth. So it’s mother earth, the person and the sky father.”

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After the Gourd Dance, the event moved into the Grand Entry. The U.S. and Colorado flags were presented by two servicemen. They were immediately followed by members of the tribe.  

After a few addresses from organizers, the event commenced with intertribal singing and dancing. There were various events to entertain the children including cake walks, dance competitions and a demonstration from the Little Shop of Physics. 

Robert Smith, who is half -Sioux and half-Navajo, said education is one of the main benefits of Pow Wows. 

“You go and basically teach a new generation about its culture,” Smith said. “It’s just a unique experience to actually learn a little bit about yourself and others as well, especially your ancestors.”

Ariana Aguilera, who is half Native American, said she came to the Pow Wow because she hadn’t been to one since she was a little girl. 

“I wanted to see what it was like again,” Aguilera said. “Honestly, I think it’s super important, even for all these students to even be around something like this, around Native American cultures, even if they’re not.” 

Jensen Woods, a senior communication studies major, is not Native American but attended the Pow Wow to learn more about the culture. 

“I’m taking an indigenous women, children and tribes class right now,” Woods said. “…It’s a very complicated history. I think it’s important to recognize that, learn about it and recognize how it reflects in today’s world.”

After the dinner that Smith said included traditional ingredients, the Pow Wow ended with an honor song, marking the close of the CSU’s 35th Annual AISES Pow Wow. 

“(The Pow Wow) is important because Native American history has been repressed and overlooked since the beginning of first contact,” said Ty Smith, the NACC’s director. “When you talk about how people in this country are taught of the United States, the native side and perspective is never even visited or discussed.”

Reporter Mack Beaulieu can be reached online at entertainment@collegian.com or on twitter @Macknz_James.