Bear Den at Moscow Middle School was an explosion of color, culture and traditions during the 14th Annual Tutxinmepu Powwow on Saturday and Sunday, hosted by the University of Idaho Native American Student Association.
The event featured representatives of tribes throughout the Northwest, with some traveling from Montana, Nevada, Wyoming and the Spokane area. The powwow provided an opportunity for non-native students and Moscow residents to learn more about Native American heritage and culture firsthand.
"It's one of the moments where people can learn a little bit more about who we are as a native people and it will create a cultural bridge that's lacking, for the non-natives to really know who we are," said Steven Martin, director for the University of Idaho's Native American Student Center. "It brings us a little bit more stronger understanding of one another."
The powwow began Saturday afternoon with a Grand Entry, consisting of an invocation and dancing. Various drum circle groups, including the host drum, Iron Horse, were arranged in a semicircle around the main gym floor with a large open area in the center for dancing.
Native Americans of all ages, dressed in brightly colored, traditional regalia, danced in a circle to the beat of the drums. Martin said circles are a symbolic part of Native American culture.
"Everything in our tribal communities happens in a circular way, so we try to structure everything in that way, too, as well," Martin said.
Saturday afternoon also featured a special recognition ceremony and honor song for Native American students graduating from the University of Idaho.
A handful of students were recognized, some graduating with bachelor's degrees and others with master's degrees and one with a law degree. Each student was given a silver, black and gold star quilt in honor of his or her accomplishments.
As soon as the announcements were completed and the honor song began, Native Americans and non-natives alike poured out of the stands to line up and shake hands with or hug the graduates.
Dara Heiple, a UI senior graduating with a bachelor's degree in music, was one of the students honored. Representing the Tsimshian and Sugpiaq tribes, Heiple said the powwow is a chance for people to come together and celebrate native traditions.
"It's always a time of feeling proud, I guess, of our native heritage," Heiple said.
Amanda Abrahamson, of the Spokane tribe, and Shedaezha Hodge, of the Navajo tribe, both traveled to the powwow with their families from Spokane.
Abrahamson and Hodge and their children participated in the dance contests throughout the day. The children participated in the Tiny Tots and Junior Traditional age groups, while Abrahamson danced in the Women's Traditional group and Hodge competed in the Women's Fancy dance contest.
Abrahamson said the powwow gave her a chance to visit with family and other Native Americans. She said many of the people who attended the Tutxinmepu Powwow also attend other similar events in the Northwest.
"It's like a family thing. You see the same people at all the powwows," she said. "It's like a powwow family."
The powwow calendar of events also included an appreciation meal for all guests Saturday, followed by a second Grand Entry, an Easter egg hunt for Native American youth Sunday morning and a final Grand Entry that afternoon.
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