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‘The people are still out there’: Annual powwow celebrates Indigenous cultures at Clark College

Rising Generations group aims to keep tribal education, culture alive

By Mia Ryder-Marks, Columbian staff reporter
Published: April 19, 2024, 6:04am
2 Photos
The Native American Parent Association of Southwest Washington has hosted powwows like this 2018 one at Heritage High School in Vancouver for about 20 years.
The Native American Parent Association of Southwest Washington has hosted powwows like this 2018 one at Heritage High School in Vancouver for about 20 years. (The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

An annual gathering that celebrates the various facets of Indigenous cultures through music, dance, art, storytelling and socializing will return this weekend.

Saturday’s powwow at Clark College plays an important role in preserving and promoting Indigenous cultures and communities locally, said Dave Jollie, one of the organizers. The Native American Parent Association of Southwest Washington has hosted a powwow for the past 20 years, he said.

On Saturday, visitors can come and go as they please and watch an array of performances, as well as browse the many traditional crafts and foods sold by local vendors. Doors open to the public at noon Saturday and the grand entry parade begins at 1 p.m. The grand entry parade is led by elders and veterans.

This year’s male head dancer is 17-year-old Sunhawk Thomas, and female head dancer is 14-year-old Mia Bennett.

If you go

  • What: Rising Generations Traditional Powwow
  • Where: Clark College O’Connell Sports Center, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver.
  • When:  Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, with grand entry parades at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. and a dinner break from 5 to 6 p.m.
  • Tickets: Entry is free
  • Information: Contact ndnedparentsassn@gmail.com or visit https://tinyurl.com/6c8d3z7w online.

“COVID set us back a bit in educating our youth on dancing, drumming and singing. But now we’re able to get back into it and it’s an opportunity to do that and learn more about your own tribe,” said Sam Robinson, a member of the Native American Parent Association.

Parent group growing

The Native American Parent Association of Southwest Washington has grown substantially over the past year. The group aims to keep tribal education and culture alive for the future generations.

The group recently has shifted to the name Rising Generations, at the suggestion of children of participants.

“It’s a wonderful program for Native youth,” said Robinson, vice chairman for the Chinook Indian Nation. “Just connecting them with others. It often brings some of them out of their shell because they’re hanging around people who are like them.”

The children participate in Native arts and crafts, such as making dream catchers or moccasins, and receive help with their school work, Jollie said.

Last year, the group had a handful of families in the group. During the COVID-19 pandemic and a couple of years following, the group’s growth stalled slightly.

But this year, more than 20 families have joined the group. Robert Barnes, president of the association, said the growth was all within a couple of months, and he believes it is due to outreach.

“It’s all happened in the past couple months. It really exploded, we outgrew our space in one classroom at Clark College, so they put us in a bigger classroom, and we outgrew that,” Robinson said. “And more and more people have been coming.”

Barnes hopes that the trend of people joining the association continues.

The group is made up of different nations, who coordinate together to share and influence the next generation. Members of Rising Generations said that anyone is able to join the group, even those who aren’t Indigenous.

“The people are still out there, and we haven’t all disappeared. We’re involved in our communities, and it is important to learn from folks that are Native in the community,” Robinson said. “We want the kids to be inspired to find out more about their own tribes.”

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