Wishing to bring attention to their newly formed Native American Student Council (NASC) and the vibrancy of Native American culture to their campus, Native Georgetown University students are hosting their first annual pow wow on April 28. The pow wow will be held on the university’s Copley Lawn in Washington D.C.
“We decided to have the pow wow in order to bring attention to the newly formed Native American Student Council and to bring some Native culture to Georgetown, one of the nation’s oldest universities, which for many years has not had a strong presence of Native students,” says Hilary Andrews, Aquinnah Wampanoag, NASC’s founder and chair.
“This will serve as our major event to let Georgetown know that we are still around. We also hope that more Native high school students that are deciding where to attend college will consider applying to Georgetown now that there is an active, passionate group trying to provide an avenue to continue our traditions and culture while still being able to study,” she said.
According to Andrews, the NASC pow wow will feature a number of singers and dancers, including the drums Stomptown and Red Blanket. Food and drink will be available for purchase.
Andrews says she and another student, Whitney Dockrey, Cherokee, formed the NASC. “Once we realized that there was Not a native student organization on campus we knew that it was our duty and job to start it. I serve as chair and Whitney serves as treasurer. This first pow wow is a significant achievement when you think that there were just a few students looking to band together just a semester ago.”
In addition to the efforts of Andrews and Dockery, Georgetown student and NASC Students of Color Alliance Representative Andrew Vondall, Crow Nation, is also lending his efforts to create a successful event that promotes the awareness of Native culture.
“Natives come and go at Georgetown with no outlets to share their experiences or culture; this will finally show Native American students they can be heard,” says Vondall.
Though Andrews and Vondall say there can be difficulties in terms of protocol whenever a student organization starts something new, the support from fellow students has been overwhelmingly positive, including a significant amount of encouragement from the Students of Color Alliance, a campus organization that represents ethnic groups at the university.
“The major difficulties for us have been trying to learn the Georgetown bureaucracies so as to get sufficient funding for our event,” says Andrews. “Being a new student to Georgetown has not really helped the process either. It is also the first time that any of us have planned a pow wow, so working with community partners to make sure the event is a legitimate success has been an entirely long arduous process as well.”
Vondall says it feels surreal that the NASC is accomplishing so much and he can add to the positivity. “It’s hard to believe someone from a reservation in Montana can do something like this. We are building a group that will remain long after we graduate so Native Americans can look to Georgetown as a place to go that is warm and welcoming and not cold and far away,” says Vondall.
As April 28 approaches, Andrews says she is looking forward to educating the public about the contributions of the NASC and gives her perspective on what it is like to be a Native student at Georgeown.
“Being one of the few Native students on campus is actually a really fun experience. When people learn how active I am within the community it provides me with a platform to educate them on the misconceptions that many students have. We are hoping that the pow wow will also be a tool for which we can educate students, faculty and the greater Georgetown community.”
“A Baltimore community partner Louis Campbell, Lumbee, who helped put on the WINS pow wow, has been insturmental in getting all the parts of the pow wow together,” says Andrews. “I would really like to highlight his efforts as imperative to the success of this event.”
Campbell, Lumbee, is a celebrated dancer in Indian country who has helped to organize several pow wows. Recently, he was co-coordinator of the First Annual Lifelines Powwow in Baltimore Maryland, and now he has stepped up to help out Native students at Georgetown.
“It has been awesome working with them. They are all very nice. They came out to Baltimore and I did my first round dance. They brought their whole crew from Georgetown. I am helping them get their vendors, dancers and their MC. I have been helping them because they don't know much about the pow wow system. It seems to be going pretty good.
Campbell said so far the responses have been enthusiastic even though the powwow is taking place at the same time as the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque
"A lot of people from D.C. go to the gathering, but there are a lot that can't afford to. On Facebook, it is already looking good for attendance here, especially for a first-time pow wow,” says Campbell. “Our MC is Keith Colston, our arena director is Maurice Proctors and there will be a few drums that will show up, including Stomptown and Red Blanket—it's going to be a good time.”
For more info on the pow wow, click here.
For more info on the Georgetown University Native American Student Council, click here.