Willamette University holding March 10 Social Powwow

02.28.2012 Ron Karten Culture, Entertainment, Events

SALEM -Willamette University's Native American student organization presents its 10th annual Social Powwow in the university's Sparks Athletic Center on Friday, March 10.

This family-friendly activity is free and many of the dances are open for all. 

Featuring more than 20 drum groups and 100 dancers, the powwow is an opportunity to experience Native American culture. More than 30 Native artisans and food vendors will participate, including a raffle with prizes such as vendor wares, hotel accommodations and a Pendleton blanket.

"Ten years ago, three students started the annual powwow to highlight their cultural identity," says Gordy Toyama, director of the university's Multicultural Affairs Office. "The growth of this event reflects upon our students' commitment to celebrating our diverse cultures."

Beginning with the colorful Grand Entry at 1 p.m., the event will feature flags, dancers and participants from many generations. This session ends at 4 p.m., and another begins at 6 p.m.

Both sessions feature two dance contests - the Men's Traditional Dance and the Women's Jingle Dress Dance. Jingle dresses are fashioned with hundreds of small tin cones to audibly accentuate dancers' rhythmic motions.

In conjunction with "Marie Watt: Lodge," a major exhibition at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, university alumna and contemporary Native American artist Marie Watt will hold a sewing circle from 2 to 5 p.m. All are invited to join the circle and work with Watt on a project that will become part of the museum's permanent collection. 

Willamette alumnus and Grand Ronde Tribal Elder Bob Tom is the powwow's master of ceremony and David West, director of Native American Studies Program at Southern Oregon University, is the Arena Director. The Host Drum is The Woodmen, comprised of members from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

As part of the event, the Native American Enlightenment Association will honor former Arena Director Craig Whitehead and Willamette University Native American alumni.

For additional information, call Willamette's Office of Multicultural Affairs at 503-370-6265 or visit