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UConn American Indians celebrate heritage

Staff Writer

Published: Monday, April 8, 2013

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08



UConn celebrated its 21st annual powwow Saturday. Attendees dressed in traditional American Indian garb and danced to the beating of drums in celebration of American Indian culture, ancestry and customs of American Indians at UConn.

American Indians dressed in colorful, traditional garb performed numerous dances at the annual powwow put on by the Native American Cultural Society Saturday afternoon.

The 21st powwow had a variety of activities, featuring traditional dancing done by people dressed in traditional clothing. The clothing was incredibly detailed with many layers added. Drummers played a rhythmic beat that could be heard far from the Student Union showing off the Native American culture.

The traditional ceremony is meant to celebrate the customs and the ancestry of Native American tribes, according to Kayla Dias, an 8th-semester human development and family studies major and president of the Native American cultural society. Dias explained she has some Cherokee ancestry within her family.

“It’s important for us to recognize the Native American culture,” said Dias. “It’s something that is often overlooked and invisible. For us to be able to bring this to UConn is something special and it’s important. It’s a grand opportunity for other people at UConn to learn about the Native American culture.”

As the dancers took center at the quad, they were surrounded by onlookers who set up blankets and chairs to view the performance. Off to the corner were a group of men sitting in circle, singing traditional songs as they played the drums. Customary food was also sold that included special dishes such as frybread and succotash that consists of corn, lima bean and other local vegetables.

“I value this event because it’s an opportunity for students who identify themselves as Native Americans to celebrate and share their culture with students at UConn,” said Tiago Machado, advisor for the society.

During the grand entrance, according to powwow etiquette, it is tradition that all spectators stand and remove their hats. In order to participate in the ceremonial dances, the Master of Ceremonies has to invite participants into the circle. All dances are done clockwise around the drum.

Vendors littered the Student Union quad selling a variety of Native American traditional clothing and colorful jewelry. Others sold memorabilia such as dream catchers, art, pottery and blankets as well as leather goods.

“We try to learn about the Native American culture by coming to these powwows and asking a lot of questions when we are here,” said Rosalind Chinwing of Revere, Mass.

Chinwing explained this was her first powwow at UConn and typically goes to powwows closer to her area in Massachusetts.

“I think it’s a great time to show where you are from,” said Kathryn Miranda of East Boston. “It’s a great place to learn if you are not a Native American.”


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