Celebrating culture: Annual Dance for Mother Earth Powwow debuts at Pioneer High
Pioneer High School is the new setting for the Dance for Mother Earth Powwow, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this weekend.
"Holding the powwow in Ann Arbor is part of the transition of bringing it back to the U-M campus," said Forrest Cox, a University of Michigan undergraduate student and member of the Native American Student Association. "The powwow is an important part of retaining our culture."
Artist Bunky Echo-Hawk from the Pawnee tribe in Oklahoma helped kick off the powwow Saturday by creating what he called "live art."
"During the opening drum call, I'll be painting whatever inspires me," Echo-Hawk explained.
Pioneer's gymnasium was filled with visitors and participants in what has become one of the country's biggest powwows. Circles are set up on the gymnasium floor where drummers play and chant in harmony as part of the grand entry that officially begins the powwow.
Aaron Martin came from South Bend, Ind., to dance.
"We're a dying culture, and it means everything for me to be here," said Martin, a member of the Pokagon Potawatami tribe.
Martin, like many participants, was dressed in regalia unique in their colors and materials. Veronica Townshend came from Pontiac but is originally from Florida.
"I'm a Florida Seminole," she said. "I've been dancing for 20 years to honor my ancestors."
U-M also is known for its strong program for Native American studies. Cassie Freeman came from California this weekend to check out the school and was met by her cousin and aunt from Harbor Springs.
"We come to the powwow to see family and friends," said Freeman's Aunt, Melissa Laughlin. "This is such a happy place."
Laughlin's daughter Josephine, 14, represented her tribe dressed as a princess.
"I'm part of the Little Traverse Bay Bands Odawa Indians," she said. "This is my first time here, and I really like the atmosphere."
The 40th annual Powwow, which has more than 31 vendors, runs through Sunday evening. For information, go to http://www.umich.edu/~powwow/.