The Penn State Powwow

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The 15th annual Penn State Powwow was conducted April 6-7  at Mount Nittany Middle School. The Penn State powwow hosts a traditional American Indian powwow that celebrates community through the gathering of people, American Indian drum music and songs, through Native American dance, Native American foods and American Indian vendors selling and displaying their craft.

More than 160 Native Dancers came to the powwow from as far as New Mexico, Canada, South Dakota and from other American Indian Communities across the country. Richie Plass, an American Indian lecturer and professional speaker also made it out to the powwow. Plass explains below what a powwow is and why it is important.

“The easiest way of explaining a powwow is a gathering of people. It’s social, it’s a lot to explain and that’s why when you come here, the emcee helps you, but then you see it too.”

The drum from which the dancers are obtaining this rhythm and beat is the only instrument played for traditional dances. The drum replicates the heartbeat of mother earth. The drumbeat, along with the other factors of a powwow allows dancers to become fully immersed in dance and in many cases, causes dancers to forget about everything except the powwow.

The powwow is not meant to be a relic of the past, nor are the people participating engaged in trying to reenact the past. The celebration is simply focused on being in the moment by celebrating customs that bring the community together.

The tribal songs are open to everyone, even non-native people. It’s open to Penn State, along with the entire State College community. The powwow is also an extremely family-friendly event. It even has specialty dances geared towards kids. The candy dance allows kids to dance while the drum is beating. Once the drum stops, the kids can pick up candy on the floor.

Not only is this a family friendly event, but it is also a perfect place for college students to take a break from normal student life on campus an in town. One of the reasons why this event occurs is to celebrate the gathering people. Penn State students are very accustomed to gathering as a Penn State family, but it isn’t often that we get the opportunity to gather as something greater and for a meaning that’s outside the realm of PSU. This was the perfect opportunity for students to understand the importance of a community coming together, which is an important concept that can’t be taught inside the classroom.


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