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University of Iowa Powwow cancelled after 20 years

BY KAITLIN DEWULF | APRIL 22, 2014 5:00 AM

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For over 20 years, the Native American Student Association has hosted the University of Iowa Powwow celebration. But this year, the event filled with drumming competitions and food vendors has been scrapped.

The Powwow was founded in 1990 as a means to provide a showcase for Native American students on campus who needed a sense of culture. The Native American Student Association, which was previously known as the American Indian Student Association, decided to cancel the annual Powwow this spring. Association President Kyleshawn Stead said it became clear in early February that the student group did not have enough people to organize and raise funds for such a large event, despite extreme disappointment with the decision.

“It took a lot of time and serious conversation to decide to cancel the Powwow,” Stead said. “We just couldn’t put so much commitment on so few students.” He said this year’s Powwow planning would have fallen on seven students. Last year, the group had 13 members.

The university has had a major decline in the number of Native American students over the past few years, Stead said. He said this decline had a negative effect on the Native American Association and Powwow planning. In fall 2009, there were 133 students who identified as Native American. That number dropped to 99 in the fall of 2011 and 59 in the fall of 2013.

“This is not the first time the Powwow has been canceled,” Stead said. “In 2005, the Powwow went on hiatus for four years and was brought back.” Stead said in 2005, the Native American Association had to cancel the Powwow in order to recover from an $8,000 debt that was carried over from previous years. He said this year’s cancellation is because of the same issue, and the group decided to be fiscally responsible to avoid further debt.

Last year, the UI Powwow’s total costs added up to $55,000. The student group mainly relies on Cultural Diversity Day, the university, and outside sponsors to raise funds for the event. UI Chief Diversity Officer Georgina Dodge said she was disappointed the event won’t occur this year.

“The Powwow provided students with a wonderful educational opportunity and a unique cultural experience,” she said. Stead said the Powwow is not canceled indefinitely. The association plans to bring it back next year, but it will heavily rely on increased membership.

He said this depends on how many Native American students decide to look at the university. To attract members to the organization, Stead said, the plan is to have an event at the beginning of the academic year to let students know there is a Native American Association. The event be an informational barbecue. In previous years, the UI Powwow gave people the opportunity to learn about Native American dance and song, sample food, and visit booths that sell handmade crafts.

“As an organization, we want to make it another year,” said group Vice President Lydia Stead. “We want to show people Native Americans can do it.”


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