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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


april 6, 2002 - Issue 58


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IU Pow Wow to Offer Glimpse of Heritage

by John Meunier, Herald-Times Staff Writer
IU Professor Wesley Thomas Indiana University may not seem like the logical place for a pow wow.

Only 81 students out of more than 35,000 claim American Indian heritage. Only 317 Monroe County residents out of 120,000 are listed as American Indians on the federal census.

Rather than being an argument against a celebration of American Indian culture, tradition and history, however, IU professor Wesley Thomas believes those numbers are the best argument for the pow wow.

"I realized this place needed this so bad," he said Wednesday. "They don't know what they are missing."

Thomas, 47, came to IU's anthropology department in the fall to teach gender studies and courses on American Indian culture. A Navajo himself, he has 25 years experience organizing and taking part in pow wows across the country.

First Nations at Indiana University will host its first pow wow March 29 and 30 at the IU Fieldhouse next to Assembly Hall at the corner of 17th Street and Fee Lane.

The event will feature two days of dances, singing, drumming and 40 booths with authentic arts and crafts for sale.

More information and a schedule of events can be found at

"I see this pow wow as much more for non-native people than native people, because I see it as a good cultural meeting ground, a place where their can be an exchange of cultural information between peoples."

And it should be a lot of fun, he said.

Dancing and singing is expected to continue until midnight each night.

The origin of the pow wow is not clear. It has roots in tribal celebrations that had both religious and social significance. In the last century, the pow wow has evolved into an inter-tribal celebration of dance and tradition.

Pow wows are held all over the United States and Canada throughout the year.

Competitive rather than purely social and sacred dancing has become more popular at pow wows, but Thomas said he is trying to resist that trend.

One thing the pow wow will not offer is food. Fieldhouse regulations prevent the serving of food except for licensed vendors, Thomas said.

Although there are not many local American Indians to participate, Thomas expects dancers and other American Indians from surrounding urban areas and perhaps as far away as Canada to make the trip.

College students from nearby universities are also planning on attending, which plays into a secondary motivation Thomas had in organizing the pow wow.

He hopes it can become a tool to recruit and retain American Indian students to IU.

"We want them to see that this is a part of the academic life of the university," Thomas said.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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