The Native and Indigenous Student Union will host Willamette’s 13th annual Social Powwow this Saturday, March 14. The celebration will begin at 4 p.m. with lead drum Arlie Neskahi ’83 and the White Eagle Singers, a renowned drum group that performs throughout North America.
As host drum, the White Eagle Singers will perform throughout the event. Other highlights include Native arts and crafts, dancers, drum groups, food vendors and a Men’s Chicken Dance contest with cash prizes. Director of Multicultural Affairs Gordy Toyama says the powwow inspires productive cultural exchange between the Willamette community and the Native American community.
“Not many small, liberal arts colleges host a powwow,” Toyama says. “This is one of the most widely attended, and Native dancers, drummers and people feel welcome on campus. It provides great opportunities for the Willamette community to engage in learning about a culture’s people and traditions. The energy is spiritual.”
Neskahi, a member of the Diné Nation from New Mexico, joined the White Eagle Singers at 17 and has sung with them ever since. Along the way, he earned a BS in physical education at Willamette. He still credits a Willamette education professor with inspiring him to travel the country —she predicted that he would one day “make an impact on a national level.”
Indeed, Neskahi travels across North America as a Native consultant, trainer and inspirational speaker. He also broadcasts nationally from Portland as host of the Wisdom of the Elders radio program.
Neskahi will meet with Willamette and Chemawa Indian School students the day before the powwow.
“As an alumnus, Arlie has a lot of knowledge and experiences to share with and guide us as we continue our education,” says Cristina Marquez Guerrero '15, an anthropology major. “As students on campus, we don’t often have the chance to hear from inspiring Native people.”
Overall, the powwow unites Willamette and the flourishing Native cultures in the Pacific Northwest, Guerrero says. “The powwow is a good time to recognize the first peoples of this area and see that Native people are thriving cultures,” she says.
Both Neskahi’s talk and the powwow are free and open to the public. The talk will take place on Friday, March 13 at 6 p.m. in the Alumni Lounge. The powwow begins at 4 p.m. in Sparks Athletic Center. For more information, visit the Willamette Events Calendar.
• Article by Emma Jonas ’15, creative writing major