Exploring a Native American tradition: Thursday's Early Childhood Powwow at DLMS to be 'learning experience'
Powwows are a summer tradition in Native American communities throughout Minnesota and the Dakotas.
"Starting now and continuing until about October, there's a powwow going on pretty much every weekend," says Emily Buermann, programming director for the Becker County Museum in Detroit Lakes.
Buermann, who is of Native American descent herself, was part of the planning committee for this week's Early Childhood Powwow, set to take place on Thursday, May 3 at the Detroit Lakes Middle School.
Unlike many powwows, however, this one is specifically geared toward young children, as well as families that have never experienced one of these uniquely Native American celebrations for themselves.
"It's open to everyone," says Detroit Lakes Early Childhood Family Education Coordinator Fran Rethwisch, who like Buermann, was a member of the planning committee for Week of the Young Child festivities, of which the powwow is intended to be the finale.
"We're celebrating children in our local, Native American way, by throwing a celebration," Buermann added, noting that in Ojibwe culture, a powwow is a celebratory gathering that begins with a feast, and ends with dancing.
In keeping with that tradition, Thursday's powwow will also begin with a 5 p.m. feast in the DLMS commons, featuring "family friendly" fare such as barbecue sandwiches, chips and beverages, along with an opportunity to try some traditional Native American foods.
"We will be cooking and serving samples of wild rice," Buermann said, "and there will be some fry bread to try as well."
The feast will be followed by demonstrations and dancing inside the gymnasium.
"The Grand Entry is at 6 p.m.," Buermann said, noting that while the powwow is informal, with people coming and going throughout the evening, "if you can only come for a little while, be sure to come for the Grand Entry."
Every powwow features a grand entry, which is when all of the dancers enter in full dress regalia, along with the drummers.
"We've invited some drum groups and dancers," Buermann said, noting that while dancers are encouraged to bring their dress regalia, it's not required to take part in the dancing.
"Everyone is invited to join in," said Buermann. "It's really intended to be a learning experience. You don't have to be Native American, and you don't have to be in dressed in regallia to dance at this powwow."
As part of that "learning experience," Buermann will be visiting the Lincoln Education Center in Detroit Lakes on Tuesday, May 1, to talk with the preschool groups there about Native American culture, and powwows in particular.
"I'll be dressed in my regalia, and I'll be talking about what dance regalia is, and what to expect when they come to a powwow," she said, noting that she has also done this in the past as part of the Becker County Museum's outreach programming (the museum was one of this year's Week of the Young Child sponsors as well).
Though the Week of the Young Child was officially celebrated on April 16-20, the Detroit Lakes planning committee extended the festivities through this week's powwow.
"This is our second annual (Early Childhood Powwow)," Rethwisch said. "We had over 300 people come to last year's, so we decided to move it from M State to the middle school.
"If you've never been to a powwow, this is a great opportunity to find out what it's all about," she added, noting that the festivities are slated to wind down by 8 p.m.
"It's shorter than a traditional powwow," Buermann explained, "and we encourage people to ask questions, and join in the celebration.
What we're really doing is inviting everyone, no matter what their ethnicity or the culture they grew up in, to come together and learn about their neighbors who are Native American, and share a little bit of our culture and traditions."
For more information about this Thursday's powwow, or other Week of the Young Child activities, contact the Lincoln Education Center offices at 218-847-4418.