On September 8th, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion paired up with the Phelps Scholars Program (PSP) to send students to Grand Rapids for the 57th annual Grand Valley American Indian Lodge Powwow.
There was stunning ceremonial regalia, vendors selling Native American curios, the bass of leather drums and the delectable scent of frybread. Program Coordinator Michael Brown remarked that
this tradition even precedes his eight-year tenure. The powwow is organized by the Council of Three Fires (Chippewa, Ottawa and Potawatomi). The bond is so strong that there is usually no need to formally request our visit ahead of time.
Upon their arrival, students have the option to peruse the nearby shops, talk with Native Americans (both dancers/ participants and fellow attendees) or spectate on the variety of dances
presented. Most students divide up their time doing all three, being
cautious to ask politely for pictures and paying attention to their surroundings. This has done much to build respect and trust between PSP and the Council; The Master of Ceremonies took a moment during the end of the ceremony to recognize Hope’s presence and implore his fellow Native Americans to share their thoughts and answer questions.
Tradition remained the central focus of the event. For instance, the carrier for the Vietnam veterans’ flagpole took a few minutes to explain the significance of the three eagle feathers, the crooked bend of the pole and the colored medicine wheel mounted atop the pole. Dancers of all colors and backgrounds took part in their respective dances; a darkerskinned individual named Marcus Carter, known by the name Little Hawk, bore bright regalia vestments. When asking about the personal significance of the pow wow, Carter thought for a moment before saying simply: “It’s my culture.” His brisk reply summarizes the ethos of the environment.
Every Phelps Scholar takes away something new from the event. For freshmen such as Nathan Myotte, this will be the first of many. For seniors, such as Askaree Crawford, there is always more to be had.
It is a fantastic opportunity to sharpen your cultural learning and experience a new environment. If you have any questions about future Phelps Scholars events, see Yolanda Vega or Michael Brown in Scott Hall. Stay tuned for more!