Watching her two older brothers as they spun and stomped around the Lory Student Center Main Ballroom, 8-year-old Wanietu Irvingsaid she has been exposed to the Native American culture for as long as she could remember.
“I probably started dancing as soon as I could walk,” said Irving, a Lakota Native American from Kansas, as she sat with her parents, gazing on as dozens of men and women of all ages performed a myriad of sacred dances during CSU’s 27th Native American POW WOW Saturday.
Irving said her favorite type of dance is known as the Jingle Dress Dance, for which performers wear dresses often adorned with Copenhagen Chewing Tobacco lids. The lids, formed into funnel-like shapes, jingle when they come into contact with one another.
Irving and her brothers — Macey Hubbard, 14, and Akicita Irving, 11 — said they believe her dress is decorated with shotgun shells.
“I like it because they make lots of noise,” Irving said.
Throughout Saturday, Native Americans — some were CSU students and some were tribal elders from Western states — celebrated their ancient culture and history through song, dance and food as part of the kickoff for Native American Awareness Month.
There are several different stories of the POW WOWs origin, according to Powwows.com.
It is thought that the war dance societies of the Ponca and Southern Plains tribes created the celebration. Others believe that the government forced Native Americans to host dances for the public after the communities were relocated onto reservations.
Rebecca Ridgely, a POW WOW participant, started exposing her daughters, ages seven and two, to the Native American culture at a young age. Both girls were dressed in jingle dress regalia and were spotted on the main floor dancing next to their mother.
There is usually at least one POW WOW celebrated each weekend in the Midwest, Ridgely said.
“We go to the (POW WOWs) quite a bit,” Ridgely said, unable to recall how many her family had attended within the last year.
Angel Barron, a Huichol Native American from Texas, set up a booth at which she was selling colorful beadwork.
Barron started beading at age four; the art is prominent in the Huichol culture.
“When I was a little girl, my grandmother would ask me ‘Are you hungry?’ and if I said yes, she would make me bead 10 rows first,” Barron said, laughing.
Barron, who attends POW WOWs often, praised the celebration for its community and family-centric values — people that attend become friends and family to one another.
“You are my sister now,” Barron said to the Collegian reporter.
Staff writer Katelyn McNamara can be reached at email@example.com.