No place for our voices: Tragedy for Native Sun powwow

Ken Sekaquaptewa, an advisor at the Multicultural Center, calmly expresses feelings of frustration: “One weekend is all we’re asking for,” he says.

For eight years, the Native American community of Utah and those who appreciate their vibrant heritage look forward to the Native American Powwow in November, which is Native American Heritage Month.

This year, however, those involved in the powwow discovered that the university has failed to recognize the powwow’s importance to the community.

The powwow has been located in the ballroom of the student center for eight years. The room allows numerous people to attend and the hardwood floors are perfect for traditional Native American dance performances.

“What else is expected from a predominantly white campus?”

Dancers come from all over the Rocky Mountain West, excited to participate in a festival of cultural recognition and revival of identity.

As students and staff sought out details for the powwow, they found that the ballroom would not be available during the most important time of year for all Native Americans.

According to advisor Moana Havea-Angilau, in May the Multicultural Center sent in its requests to student government. “They’ve been very good in scheduling us for the past five to ten years,” she said, “so I assumed things would go smoothly again this year.”
According to Havea-Angilau, the Multicultural Center was told they’ve been inconsistent with their dates and therefore was told to figure things out on their own this year. By this time, however, it was too late to secure the student ballroom.

A look at the November weekends on the online student calendar indicates there is one Friday volleyball game and, other than that, an all month event at the Woodbury Art Museum. From this calendar, it’s unclear what is booked in the ballroom all month long, but no one is giving students straight answers.

Instead, they’ve been referred to the physical education building’s gymnasium. Hopefully, negotiations to secure this space will go well, but accommodations will be necessary.

In the gymnasium, a mat must be laid out for any non-athletic events. The dancers do, however, require hardwood for the recreation of stomping, beat and rhythm that are strong components of their culture.

Havea-Angilau mentions the personal assistance from Student Body President Richard Portwood. “I love the students in student government,” she said, but feels concerned that not even these students can be allowed to support all students.

“Student government gives me their schedule for the academic year by June 1 and then it is open to on-campus departments and then off-campus institutions. After that, it is first come first serve,” said Leslie Farnsworth, administrative scheduler of the Student Center.

“Native American students pay student fees, they are no different from other students,” said Sekaquaptewa, who is of Hopi Indian descent. “One would think that our students would have equal access to the Student Center’s ballroom to express their culture for a night or two in November.”

The potential blame for miscommunication between those charged with scheduling the event is irrelevant. It does not change the fact that a community who struggles for representation will be negatively affected and unable to adequately honor their traditions.

The university should be on its way to bridge cultural divides with understanding and tolerance in mind. With the presence of President Holland, perhaps we are on that path, but moments like these vividly show that we often fall back a step or two and sometimes we stumble down the entire staircase.

“What else is expected from a predominantly white campus?” said Billie Atisty, president of the club.

Students and faculty at the Multicultural Center have been guarded about discussing the issue too openly – the atmosphere is that apprehensive. Billie Atisty is correct when she says that this is a tragic, culturally insensitive campus    situation.


5 thoughts on “No place for our voices: Tragedy for Native Sun powwow

  1. I am not surprised with the response of the blame game, so club members, just take the building you currently have and enjoy a fun pow-wow lesson learned and be ready to schedule for next year. After all pow wows are held almost anywhere. If we as native’s play the this is “white campus” game, we have not learned much. We are known to be make lemonade out of lemons. So in Nov. perhaps teach a few folks that you make the best out of what is handed to you… plan better next year, and yes you are in a predominately white society but you must learn to exist in it to.

  2. This article is a blatant attack on the Student Center using racism as it’s fuel. It is completely slanted to one side and Nothing in this article is remotely accurate.

    Here are the facts. The Student Government gets first picks as to when and what they want to book in the Student Center. Then the booking goes out to the academic department and then to the rest of the school departments. So first off there is no guarantee that The Pow Wow will be the same weekend every year. Second the Student governement is not in charge of booking events for the Multicultural. Multicultural is in charge of booking the Multicultural. They failed to send their schedules to the student center on time. So they didn’t get the days they wanted.

    Also the Activity Center actually works better for this group. Prior years there were issues on cooking locations which always blocked traffic to the load…

  3. …loading zones making it near impossible for other events to go on in the Student Center.
    (Little side note: Multicultural is one of the few organization on campus that has special permissions to bring outside food in and not use UVU’s catering. )
    So with the Activity Center there will be a better location to cook those delicious Indian Tacos, (my favoirite food) better parking, Better viewing angles of the competition with the bleachers, better bathroom locations, and more spaces to set up food areas and gift shops. I’m excited for it more now and can’t wait to go experience it.
    In the end this article is completely unnecessary and is a good example of bad journalism. Next time you need to write to your facts and build your opinion around the facts, not write your opinion and only choose facts that support your opinion. That is bad journalism and I expect better from this…

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