Portland State’s United Indigenous Students in Higher Education and the Confederate Tribes of Grand Ronde Royalty hosted the 46th Annual Naimuma Pow Wow on May 6 at the Oregon Convention Center. Everyone in the Portland area was welcome and admission was free.
The Pow Wow included grand entries at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. and a community meal at 5:30 p.m. The well-organized event was attended by people of all ages, with some attendees dressed in Pow Wow regalia and others in street clothes.
The regalia was colorful and ranged from traditional to modern and glorious to modest. Many of the traditional styles were intricately beaded and belled, and and participants wore displays of feathers on headdresses attached in the back. Observed footwear featured classic and fancy moccasins along with intricately beaded slip-ons and common street shoes.
As an emcee would announce a dance, drums would start beating. Dancers with feathered shields, bustles and headdresses bobbed and twirled; woven shawls were wielded in intricate patterns, while bells sewn on dresses jingled.
Miss Naimuma 2017–18 wore a traditional style dress of light green, a short, cream-colored bolero, a wide, multicolored beaded belt, and beaded accessories. Her long, dark hair was in two braids, and she wore a beaded headpiece announcing her title and the PSU emblem.
The room was set up with a large opening in the middle; rows of chairs were on three sides and the emcee’s platform stood on the side furthest from the entry. On one side, behind the rows of chairs, were vendors’ tables.
Tribal, Oregon and American flags were set close to the emcee’s platform. Some people carried staffs with eagle heads, feathers and antlers. Also present were veterans in uniform.
Why or when Pow Wows originated is uncertain. Some say they started as war dances, others claim they started from exploitation by the government who wanted entertainment from Native Americans.
Today’s Pow Wow’s are organized events of stylized regalia and dancing. Many are competitive, while others are for celebration and fellowship. Dancers often find the Pow Wow circle emotionally healing and inspiring. They are cultural gatherings that many people participate in for most of their lives.
There are many styles of dancing. A few are Straight Dancing, which is dependent on strategically matched and coordinated regalia. Ladies Cloth and Women’s Buckskin style are slow graceful dances with elegant regalia. Ladies Fancy Shawl is when a shawl is worn over the shoulders while the dancer jumps and spins with the music to resemble a butterfly. There is also a Men’s Fancy Dance. Other styles of dance include the Buffalo Dance, Women’s Jingle Dress Dance, Chicken Dance and Traditional Dance.
PSU’s 46th Annual Naimuma Pow Wow was a celebration with presentations of stylized dancing. The atmosphere was serene, and the dancing was at times vigorous and at times calming. The event ended with a series of songs while drums beat vibrantly and echoed, and everyone was invited into the dance circle.