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April 17, 2024

MSU celebrates 38th annual Powwow of Love

In early February, the 38th Powwow of Love, a lively festival held annually on campus, was a testament to the diversity of the North American Indigenous community. It welcomed members from various Tribes, including those from Michigan State University, East Lansing and the Lansing area. This annual celebration continues to thrive, playing a significant role in the North American Indigenous community on and off campus and providing an avenue to showcase culture and honored traditions year after year.

drummers in the center of the floor in IM East

Hosted within IM East this year, the powwow was a success that welcomed over 200 attendees. Indigenous people from different Tribes reunited with families, children, staff, students and community leaders who were all present to learn and be part of this cultural experience.

children hold hands and participate in powwow with family members

“Despite Michigan being home to 12 federally recognized Tribes, North American Indigenous people make up the smallest minority on campus and, with all these efforts toward erasing our culture, powwows are an integral part of celebrating indigenous identity. This is why everyone looks forward to attending powwows, for a chance to reconnect, be with the community and celebrate Indigeneity,” said Ada Varga, a third-year student studying environmental and plant biology who served on the MSU powwow planning committee as co-chair and is a proud citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi. 

Drummers sit in a circle singing

The powwow, a social gathering, is a unique opportunity for different Tribes and attendees to dance, sing and celebrate their Indigenous culture. It also provides a platform to connect with the rich traditions and stories within the Native American Indigenous Student Organization community at MSU and other Indigenous attendees. The 2024 event also hosted several vendors selling a variety of cultural items, crafts, jewelry and clothing, which added to the vibrancy of the overall experience. 

Powwow women dancers stand in a line

For those who experienced this year’s powwow, the air was alive from the moment you walked in — with the rhythm of drums, the clinking of beads and the prismatic colors of flowing regalia. To accommodate guests arriving at various times, the powwow featured two grand entries. The grand entry — a spectacular parade of participants — kicked off with a powerful beat to the drums and the enchanting sounds of singers, front and center on the dance floor. Each Tribe was announced, as its representatives gracefully circled their way around the dance floor, surrounded by a diverse crowd of children, students, parents and community members.

Powwow veteran dancers move in line carrying flags

The dance continued, drawing all Indigenous people into the circle until all were acknowledged. This celebration also featured a prayer and a ceremony honoring veterans, with each veteran’s Tribe and service announced.

Powwow dancer's dress with white ribbons flow around her

The event continued with special traditional dances, including the stunning Ribbon Town, Southern Straight, Sweetheart dance, Tiny Tots dances, head drummers and many more. The powwow’s impact on guests was visible, creating a strong sense of happiness and appreciation for being part of such a remarkable experience. 

Elder dancer

Powwow dancer cross steps facing the camera holding feathers

Thanks to NAISO, the Powwow of Love has become a cherished tradition, marking the beginning of the powwow season and making it a truly cherished event on campus.


By: Luz Vazquez

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