Drums beat and chants echoed as Native Americans gathered for the annual Haskell Indian Junior College powwow this weekend.
"This is the socializing of all of the nations coming together," said Barbara Cunningham, chairman of this year's powwow committee. "It's a celebration for the graduation, and it's a good time for everyone to get together."
The powwow has been held every spring on the west side of the Haskell campus for the last 14 or 15 years, she said. Native Americans from as far away as Washington state and North Carolina came to the festival, which celebrates the renewal of spring and Friday's graduation of Haskell students.
The powwow continues today from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
IN CASE of rain, powwow activities will be held in the Coffin Sports Complex at Haskell.
About 3,200 people, including about 300 dancers dressed in traditional feathers, beads and bells, were present for Saturday's activities, which included honor dances and gift-giving, Cunningham said.
Visitors also may purchase Indian tacos, jewlery, and clothing from more than 60 vendors set up in a large circle that surrounds the powwow site.
"This is a real good turnout today, its probably one our our biggest," said Manny King, a Northern Cheyenne Indian and master of ceremonies. "We have about 100 tribes from all over the United States."
King said the powwow offers Native Americans the chance to get together and share spiritual bonds.
GIFTS such as food and clothing are placed near the powwow's annoucement center by friends and relatives to honor the achievements of Haskell students and dancers.
Saturday's honor dances, which were led by a chosen head man and head woman dancer, involved several dozen people who slowly moved in a circle around drummers and chanters in the center of the powwow's grass "arena."
Anyone may join the honor dances. As the group moves its way around, people enter the dance by making their way to the leader of the dance, shaking his or her hand, and moving to the end of the dancing line.
"By joining, you are showing support for the leader," said David Lee, a Shoshone/Bannock Indian and head man dancer of the powwow.
Lee, who graduated Friday from Haskell, said it was the first time he was a head man dancer.
"IT'S A real honor," said Lee, who was dressed in clothing that he said was "not particularly symbolic, other than being traditional."
A traditional dance competiton in various categories was scheduled as part of today's activities. There's less movement in a traditional dance than in the honor dances, Lee said.