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2016-04-01 / Shorts

Bring Your Tribe to the 12th Annual Powwow

Robyn Passante


American history will come alive again — to the beat of a drum — on April 2 and 3 as the 12th annual New Faces of an Ancient People Traditional American Indian Powwow returns to Mount Nittany Middle School in Boalsburg.

What began 13 years ago as a “tiny powwow” with 25 dancers has grown to include 150 dancers from 20 reservations. This year Native Americans from all over the United States and Canada will travel to State College — in a state that has no American Indian reservations — to participate in the powwow built by John Sanchez, a Penn State professor and Ndeh Apache.

“A lot of other powwows today are contest powwows where there’s a competPhotos Courtesy American Indian PowwowPhotos Courtesy American Indian Powwowition among dancers. That’s not traditional,” Sanchez says. “We’re focused on keeping the traditions, the language and culture, and there’s so few of these kinds of powwows left in the country.”

The powwow has earned a national reputation as one of the best in the U.S. More than 6,000 attended the last one hosted here in 2014. This year there will be a free shuttle from the HUB on campus every 30 minutes.

The free event will include traditional Native American drum music, songs, dances and foods, as well as Native American vendors showcasing and selling their authentic arts and crafts.

The powwow will run from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. April 2 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 3. Both days begin with a grand entry at noon followed by a dance to honor any veterans in attendance. “That’s just part of honoring the traditions,” Sanchez says. “We always honor our warriors.”

The event is truly inclusive — which means no matter where you’re from, you’ll be welcomed onto the dance floor at some point.  

“Everyone dances during the intertribal dances. It doesn’t matter what tribe you’re from — whether you’re from the Irish tribe or the Italian tribe or the German tribe. We’ve had Mennonites come and dance during intertribals,” he says. “You’ll feel like you’re connected. Once you get into that dancer arena and hear that drum, you just relax. You’re all one.”

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