NASA hosts first intertribal gathering in 10 years

Heavy drumming resonated through the Kent Student Center Sunday, signaling the Kent State University Native American Student Association’s first fall intertribal gathering in more than 10 years.

The powwow, held in the Ballroom, featured several singers, dancers and drummers. Each song was bolstered by one reverberating drum, which a group of about eight men played as they sang.

Men and women of all ages danced in a circle around the drummers. Many of the dancers dressed in traditional tribal regalia consisting of feathers, furs and fringe. Some dancers wore bells, while others sported Mohawk headdresses.

Victoria Humphreys, junior communication studies major and NASA president, said powwows differ depending on the culture with which they are affiliated. Although Sunday’s Southern-style powwow seemed small and relaxed, there are strict rules that must be followed.

“If you’re not wearing regalia, modest dress is important,” Humphreys said. “You also need to respect the elders. You aren’t allowed to interrupt them when they’re speaking.”

Patricia Fisher, who follows Lakota Sioux tradition, has been participating in powwows for decades. Through the years, she has danced, drummed and sang at different events.

“When it’s in your blood, you go and you have fun,” Fisher said. “The drum beat is like a heartbeat, the drums get you fired up — the music goes clear up to God!”

Vendors sold Native American jewelry, dream catchers, blankets and t-shirts at tables around the Ballroom’s perimeter.

KentWired Video

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Video by Madeline Winer.

CJ Lyons, junior pre-nursing major and NASA vice president, said he has been participating in powwows since he was about five years old. Lyons, who drums and sings, said the songs performed at powwows range from traditional to contemporary.

Ken Jaworski, a member of the Spokane tribe, used to run concert-style sound systems for NASA’s yearly powwows in the late 90s, before the group disappeared on campus for about 10 years.

“It’s time to get NASA back on track and back on this campus where it belongs,” Jaworski said.

Logan Steele, a traditional dancer and singer of Cherokee descent, also used to attend NASA’s powwows each year to show support for the group. Steele hopes that this powwow will be the beginning of NASA’s resurgence on the Kent State campus.

Lyons said the group is planning another powwow for the spring, which he hopes will be even more successful.

“We planned this event in two months … the next powwow we’ll have more time to plan,” Lyons said. “The powwow we’re planning for the spring will be twice as big. It will be outside, so we’re planning for more vendors, food and of course, dancers and drums.”

Contact Katherine Schaeffer at [email protected].