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The Denver March Pow*Wow: Recognizing an Important Cultural Moment

Mar. 24, 2021
 

In a normal year, students across Denver would have joined in celebration of the traditions of Native American peoples at the annual Denver March Pow*Wow last weekend, from March 19-21. Though COVID-19 has caused the event to be canceled this year, we still want to recognize and honor this important celebration. 

Members of our DPS community shared the importance of the event, and the connections they feel to the Powwow, which has historically brought together dancers and musicians representing 85 tribes across 28 states and three Canadian provinces. See responses from students and Native community members who are part of the Helping Our People Endure (HOPE) program in DPS:

What is your Favorite Memory or Moment of the Denver March PowWow?

“Dancing, fellowship, changing of a life moment — such as becoming the March Powwow princess.” — DPS Student

“When I became a princess, I had to speak in front of crowds at a young age, it was life-changing, I learned that I do have a voice, and I need to think about what I say. Strange that it’s the second year that you can’t gather because of the pandemic. When will Powwows happen again, when will they be safe again?” — DPS Student

“Powwows are a great way to reconnect with other colleagues and see my previous students/kids. When I look around, I see our legacy continuing. Many of our people have been through struggles, and seeing them together, I see hope. We have our eagle feathers, which are very sacred. We have so many accomplished people, representing their nation. So proud. It’s a great feeling.” — Former DPS Teacher 

“My son loves the drum, he learns the songs and practices at home. I was a dancer and my kids are ready to dance. Powwow life is very important to us.” — DPS Family Member 

“I am looking forward to my dancing, I do miss it, it was lots of fun, I miss the music, it made me happy. I miss the jewelry, and it was so welcoming. I also see other members of my family that I don’t get to see a lot.” — DPS Student

“I grew up on a reservation, and so the Powwow and the music helps to ground me. Keeps me connected. The Denver March Pow*wow was one of the first I went to when I moved to Denver.” — DPS Team Member 

What would you want your school, teachers, and fellow students to know about the Denver March Pow*Wow?

“Keep in mind that you will see over 570 tribes represented, and not only indigenous to North but also South America. Great to have an open mind, like some things you eat are different than what you might be used to.” — Sidney Whiting, Denver Indian Center committee member 

“The richness of the culture through our vendors that you can hold in your hand, with many different perspectives from so many different tribes. Encompasses such a different view of the world.” — Community Member

“There is a Powwow etiquette to help you understand how to conduct yourself at a powwow and should be read before you go if you have never been to one. It’s on the website. This is not a zoo, you can’t just watch up to a dancer and just touch their feathers or hair, it needs to be treated in a respectful manner. Common decency and respect for another culture.”  — DPS Student

Resource: PowWow Spectator’s Guide 

“This is a vulnerable space that we share ourselves, and vulnerability should come from everyone, including visitors. Respect that vulnerability, and break down bias.” — DPS Staff

The event may still be held later in the year, as organizers are hopeful that the COVID-19 vaccine program in Colorado will create safe enough conditions for a Powwow. Stay up to date through the Denver March Pow*Wow website. 

About the Denver March Pow*Wow

The Denver March Pow*Wow started as a weekly event of the Denver Indian Center in 1974 and 1975. It was called the Youth Enrichment Powwow. In 1977 this cultural event was organized by a committee of Denver Native Americans United, Inc. (Denver Indian Center). Then, the powwow committee operated separately from other committees of the Denver Indian Center. The Denver March Pow*Wow became a yearly event directed by this committee composed of a volunteer membership. This group chose officers to handle the large number of annual event activities. Membership on the committee is open to all residents of the Denver Metropolitan area — both Indian and non-Indian.