Celebrating a proud heritage

BY CORY PORTER | APRIL 10, 2015 5:00 AM

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Although the Native American population at the University of Iowa is only an estimated 40 to 50 students, a celebration of the culture and heritage will fill Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday.

The event, which is organized and operated by the Native American Student Association, is back for the 21st time, after it was held off last year because of budget issues.

UI junior Fatima Jayoma, a member of the organization, said beyond elementary school, people don’t learn much about Native American history, so the Powwow can offer that education.

“We learn so much about Native American culture as children, but after that, [it stops],” she said.

Jayoma said she remembers the adviser for the group, Tracy Peterson, saying, “It was the one time Native Americans felt welcome and felt like Iowa City was their home.”

UI junior Thom Johnson, the president of the Native American Student Association and a member of the Karuk Tribe, said the group’s small size made it hard to organize such a large event in the past, so they looked for help from larger, outside organizations, including the Native American Council.

Last year, as planning for the Powwow was in its early stages, Johnson said the student organization ran into some problems.

“We were pretty far into planning, [but] we were also pretty far in debt, so when it got time to crunch the numbers, we realized that it would be wise to just put it off and then have the money roll over to the next year so we could have more resources to put the Powwow on,” he said.

Calling the Powwow off for a year allowed the association members to have an improved event this year, Johnson said.

This year’s event will feature the customs, songs, dances, fashion, and foods of various Native American tribes, with members of different tribes coming from all over, including some from Canada.

UI senior Abby Peeters said her upbringing kept her close to Native American affairs, so it was only natural for her to get involved in college.

“My dad is an archaeologist and spent a lot of time working with native education programs … so I always grew up around it, and Iowa’s programs seemed like a really good opportunity to get a history,” she said.

She said her interests didn’t solely lie with the history of Native Americans but how they live today, and the Powwow can offer a modern picture of their lives.

Johnson, who is also a constituency senator for Native American students in the UI Student Government, said the Powwow is important, because the role of Native Americans in the United States’ history is important.

“I believe Native American culture and history to be of utmost importance in this country, given the fact that we were the original inhabitants,” he said. “So I think it’s important for Americans especially to know who was here, and what we were, and kind of our identity, and just to know that we are still here.”

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