A traditional Native American rite will help honor Haskell graduates.
The pomp and circumstance of graduation weekend at Haskell Indian Nations University won't stop with the conferring of degrees at commencement Friday morning.
At 7 p.m. Friday, dancers, drummers, singers and craft and food vendors will gather in the Haskell Stadium for the annual Haskell Powwow, which continues Saturday.
"It's a festive, joyful occasion," said Marvin Shade, director of student services at Haskell and co-chair of the powwow. "I think our biggest satisfaction comes from the students taking a step forward. Once you see a student who has paid his or her dues, it's a feeling of accomplishment."
"For us, it's our time to honor the students and their accomplishments," said Maggie Necefer, director of career planning and placement and a member of the powwow executive board. "We see the students when they first come here and we watch them go."
The powwow will feature northern and southern drum groups and $30,000 in prizes. Top prize in each dancing category is $800.
Organizers say about 25,000 people attended last year's spring powwow.
Head man dancer Joey Summers is a 20-year-old, first-year Haskell student enrolled in the Blood Indian Tribe in Standoff, Alberta, Canada, and in the Oneida Indian Tribe of Green Bay, Wis.
He has been dancing in powwows for just one year.
"The powwow is only one aspect of our Native American culture," Summers said. "There are other things you don't see: the sun dances, the sweat lodge ceremonies, the pipe ceremonies.
"It is sort of a celebration," he said. "It's a participation event. You go in there and you dance, you sing, you socialize with other people you haven't seen in a long time and you make new friends."
M'Lissa Shane, 20, the head lady dancer, is a second-year student from Crow Agency, Mont. She's also a veteran of the summer powwow circuit and has traveled throughout the United States and Canada competing in the jingle dress dance category. In 1992 she won the teen division national championship in Bismarck, N.D.
"The powwow is more of an intertribal gathering," Shane said. "Each tribe has their own ceremonies and their own dances, but they keep those within their own tribes. They don't really publicize or commercialize them."
Powwows originated as seasonal gatherings, during which Native Americans danced and socialized, said Barbara Cunningham, director of women's housing and sponsor of the Haskell Singers and Dancers. But it was whites who came up with the otherwise meaningless term "powwow," she said.
There is an admission charge to the powwow.
In conjunction with the graduation weekend, on Thursday the university's board of regents will hold a business meeting from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Navarre Hall. Regents plan to discuss the South Lawrence Trafficway, as well as proposals to increase fees and tighten university admission policies.