BISMARCK, N.D. — United Tribes Technical College will be transformed into the "Home of the Champions" once again Sept. 6 when the 43rd annual United Tribes International Powwow begins.
Julie Cain, chairwoman of the powwow committee and the director of the chemical health center at UTTC, describes the powwow as one of the "premier events" of North Dakota, usually drawing a crowd of 20,000 people. The United Tribes powwow also is the season's last large outdoor event on the Northern Great Plains powwow circuit, so many treat it as a "last hurrah," Cain said.
She expects an even higher turnout this year as people swarm from all over the country to see the spectacle.
"Of course, the five tribes (of North Dakota) attend, and we will get people from all over the state," Cain said. "We have vendors coming from the South, like Albuquerque, New Mexico and Nevada and a variety of other places."
There even is a group coming from Australia.
Every year, the powwow committee invites a "premier act," usually a Native group that performs the songs or dances of its people, to perform throughout the event. This year, the powwow presents the Tafiti Samoan Fireknife Dancers, a group of Polynesian fireknife dancers from Hawaii.
Cain says the premier act usually draws the biggest crowds of the weekend-long event because people are excited to see and experience different cultures.
"We always try to get different entertainers from far away, something with a different flavor and culture to teach people about how diverse we are," she said. "The Northern Plains style is different from other cultures and we want to show that."
The first Grand Entry kicks off the powwow on Thursday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. in the Lone Star Arena. The Grand Entry is where men, women and children perform their individual dances, such as the fancy dance or grass/jingle dance in their regalia, or traditional clothing. It's a showcase of Northern Plains Native American culture.
Dancers perform at every Grand Entry — there are six throughout the powwow — and are judged on their regalia and steps. Those competing in the adult dance contests can win up to $1,200.
Other powwow events include a golf tournament, a men's and women's softball tournament, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament for students, and a 10K run and 5K run/walk. There also will be the Miss Indian Nations pageant for Native American women ages 17-26.
This year, all fourth-grade classes in Bismarck will be attending Youth Day at the powwow. A newly organized unit on Native Americans has been introduced in the Bismarck public elementary schools. All fourth-graders are taught a North Dakota studies unit and learn about the first inhabitants of North Dakota. But this year their "textbooks will come alive," said Teresa Delorme, Pioneer Elementary principal and the Native American program coordinator for the Bismarck Public Schools.
"It's not just, 'Oh, today we are going to read about the Native Americans,'" Delorme said. "We also give them this rich experience of Indian culture."
This year's powwow theme is "Beat of the Nation," a message Cain hopes will portray the celebration and unity of Native American culture.
"(The powwow) is a time when we ... come together united as one people with one heartbeat," Cain said. "We all have many problems, but it's time to step up ... and come together."