Powwow, Native American group on hiatus

Steven Harbaugh

Steven Harbaugh

Daily Kent Stater

Hang up the feathered headdresses and colorful regalia, and put away the beaded jackets and moccasins.

The Native American Student Association will not be hosting their annual traditional powwow this year — nor will they be meeting regularly this semester.

The group has disbanded — but it’s not the end.

“We’re reinventing NASA,” said Cathy Litton, sophomore political science major and president of the group. “Because we’re linking up with the national group, we will not reinstate the group until we have the advisers and elders of the national group behind us.”

Currently, the group meets informally to plan for next year but not at any set time and place.

There was interest in having a powwow this year — but the university has not taken the student organization seriously, according to Chris Headworth, freshman anthropology major and an active member of NASA.

“At this point, we want to have the powwow, but we don’t want to dishonor our traditions and have Kent State belittle it by trying to twist it how they want it,” Headworth said.

Last year, the allocations committee said the group needed to publicize the event more and have more than 500 students in attendance. They also requested the group dance before noon because most students leave on Fridays by noon, Headworth said.

“That’s against the Lakota religion, so we couldn’t guarantee that,” he said.

“The university wanted the powwow done by their standards and what they forgot is that it’s our religion, it’s our form of church,” he said.

Litton agreed.

“This is our history. This is our culture. There is a certain way to do things,” she said. “To go against that, it’s dishonoring your religion and your race.”

The powwow is not just a “cute little demonstration”— instead, it’s an experience that is spiritual, cultural, educational and steeped in tradition, Litton said.

“For the emphasis Kent puts on culture and diversity, we don’t feel that we’re being represented as they say that we are,” Headworth said.

It angers Headworth to think social events and dances get more money, as opposed to cultural and educational events.

“The powwow is highly educational,” he said. “My impression was always that the allocations process was to benefit the students at Kent State. For them to gripe about the money for the powwow was counteractive. The powwow is a huge educational event.”

The powwow takes a lot of work and the group is giving it a rest for the year — something that is not unusual, said Thomas Norton-Smith, adviser for the group and an associate professor of philosophy at the Stark campus.

“Perhaps in its absence, the university community will realize the value of the powwow and better support it in the future,” Norton-Smith said.

It is not unheard of for student organizations to take a year off from organizing a trademark event — or to even to take a semester or year off as an organization. In the past, PRIDE! Kent, the Kent Neo-Pagan Coalition and other organizations had semesters where the groups went on brief hiatuses or did not have set meeting times.

Contact religion and culture reporter Steven Harbaugh at [email protected].