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Annual Spring Powwow Coming This Weekend

Dancer Joe Syrette of the Ojibwe tribe from Batchewana, Ontario, holds an eagle head staff during the Spring Powwow held on the UW-Madison campus last year. (Jeff Miller/UW-Madison Communications)
Dancer Joe Syrette of the Ojibwe tribe from Batchewana, Ontario, holds an eagle head staff during the Spring Powwow held on the UW-Madison campus last year. (Jeff Miller/UW-Madison Communications)
March 30, 2016

MADISON, Wis. - "A Native American cultural experience that highlights the lifestyle of Wisconsin's 11 tribal nations," is how Emily Nelis describes the 47th annual On Wisconsin Spring Powwow, which will be held this Saturday and Sunday at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.

Nelis, a UW-Madison student, is a member of the Bad River Ojibwe tribe, and of Wunk Sheek, the organization which hosts the powwow.

Nelis says the gathering is a spectacle for the senses, with Native American dances, rituals and many other elements.

"We're bringing in hawks and stuff to learn traditional stories about hawks and about the feathers, and how we use them in regalia and stuff like that," she says. "There's going to be tons and tons of vendors, who will be selling traditional Native crafts, other items from our culture, and food."

The annual powwow draws thousands of people every year. Nelis says masters of ceremonies will keep the crowd informed and engaged in the various events that will take place. Doors open at 10 a.m. both days of the event, which is free and open to the public.

When Nelis came to UW-Madison from the Bad River Reservation in far Northern Wisconsin, she felt lost among the more than 43,000 students.

She says connecting with Wunk Sheek, the American Indian student organization on campus, allowed her to express her cultural identity and to get involved in the annual powwow.

"There are a little less than 400 self-identifying Native American students," she says. "If we didn't put this powwow on, if this organization hadn't been doing this for so long, basically there would be nothing around that would be able to express our culture in this way, in this capacity."

Nationally recognized Native American dancers from all across the Midwest will put on several shows during the course of the two-day event.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI