The 10th annual American Indian Health Research & Education Alliance (AIHREA) Our Nation’s Energies (O.N.E.) Health and Wellness Pow Wow will be held in the college Fieldhouse on Saturday, May 7 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. and on Sunday, May 8 at 1 p.m., Grand Entry times.
“A pow wow is basically a … social gathering … of native peoples,” said Ed Smith, research project coordinator for the Center for American Indian Studies. “It did stem from some tribes’ ceremonies and some of the dances originate with certain tribes, but it’s definitely more of a contemporary celebration among native people. What usually goes on [is] of course singing of songs from all over the country … by different tribes, and then there’s the dancing that many people like to come and see.”
A pow wow is also a way for Native Americans to meet and preserve their cultures. Typically the dance area is blessed before a pow wow begins and is considered sacred ground throughout.
“The event itself isn’t this big, spiritual, sacred thing, but some of the stuff that’s in it is,” said Smith. “We do kind of hold that place as a temporary space where there’s positivity going on … [so] we don’t speak bad in that arena.”
In addition to the AIHREA O.N.E. Pow Wow being held on school grounds, drugs, alcohol and profanity are not allowed, out of respect.
The pow wow began at the college after anthropology professor Sean Daley founded AIHREA, which is a collaboration between the anthropology department at the college and the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the University of Kansas Medical Center. The organization works to provide educational and healthy living opportunities for American Indian people.
“We had a lot of colleagues [at KU], we were working on a lot of similar projects, we were doing a lot of work together, so we decided to … formalize our working relationship,” said Daley. “[AIHREA] was the name for us pulling our resources and manpower.”
While the pow wow is meant to be a good time, the organization’s main objective is to have as many Native Americans in attendance get the health screenings available at the pow wow in order to diagnose and treat them as quickly as possible.
“At the pow wow we offer about 21 different health screenings,” said Daley. “Several years ago … we had someone come through who was having some headaches and health issues. [It] turned out they had a brain tumor and it was diagnosed at our pow wow and we got them in to have surgery within a week.”
The pow wow is also a unique opportunity for students and anyone in attendance to learn about American Indian cultures.
“I would say if you didn’t go, you’re losing out,” said Smith. “There aren’t many pow wows in the Kansas City area anymore. … It’s a great opportunity to learn, it’s a great opportunity to come and enjoy the dancing and music, try the food. If you’ve never been, it’s even better.”
There is no admission cost and the event is open to everyone.