The Lakota Omniciye Wacipi, to be held April 12 to 14 at the Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota, fittingly concludes American Indian Awareness Week, which educates the community about Native culture.
It's the 30th year that the Lakota Omniciye student organization, with the support of the university and its American Studies department, has organized the gathering. The festivities include dances and Miss & Jr. Miss Lakota Omniciye Wacipi contests, a speaker series, walk/run events and a free buffalo dinner.
The speaker series kicked off April 8. At least 12 experts will speak about small business management and business entrepreneurship. The speaking engagements are open to the public. “Lots of Natives own small businesses. Some owners have fantastic businesses, and we want to showcase them, especially the local ones,” said Urla Marcus, director of the Center for American Indian Studies. The topic of entrepreneurship, she said, is in line with the theme of the American Indian Awareness Week: “STRONG: Solid Tribal Roots Offer New Growth.”
“This year’s theme means to me that there is that hope for sovereignty within tribal communities and that there are real efforts being done now to allow tribes to stand on their own feet with their own businesses,” said Rilda Means, a senior student and president of Lakota Omniciye. Means, Oglala Lakota, said she hopes the theme sparks more ideas and helps benefit all tribes, local businesses and entrepreneurs.
Native students, predominantly Lakota, constitute five percent of the 4,000 enrolled students at the university—a large group compared with other institutions in the state, said Marcus, noting that there are several Indian reservations nearby. While Marcus doesn’t link the growth of Native enrollment to the annual pow wow, she said that it “does give students exposure to a campus environment. They come to take tours.”
Means, who has been involved with the wacipi for four years, said Native students should attend pow wows because they offer an outlet from endless homework and class assignments. “It reconnects that student with their culture—giving them that comfort of home away from home.”
A total of $8,000 is up for grabs in the competitive dance that has categories for men, women, teens and youth. Participants will vie for top prizes for typical pow wow dances such as traditional, fancy, jingle and grass, among others. The three-day pow wow draws about 2,800 visitors; out-of-state guests come from Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota.
“The pow wow is continuing to grow,” Marcus said. “There are a lot of sponsors that want to be a part of it.” For Means, the pow wow is a continuing education: “I have learned with the wacipi that things don’t always go as smoothly as we would like to plan it, but things always have a way of working out. It has taught me more than anything to be patient and to not worry over little things.”
For more info on the Lakota Omniciye Wacipi and American Indian Awareness Week, click here.