The University of Nevada, Reno is hosting the fifth annual Spring Powwow May 2-3 at the Manzanita Bowl on campus. The free event, which runs from 12-11 p.m. May 2 and from 12-3 p.m. May 3 is open to the community and offers participants the chance to learn about Native American culture. It will feature food, arts, crafts, singing and dancing from Native Americans throughout the West.
Kari Emm, outreach and retention coordinator for the University's Center for Student Cultural Diversity and a member of the Yerington Paiute tribe, is happy for the chance to celebrate the American Indian population on campus.
"We make up less than 1 percent of the student population, but this event attracts over 1,600 people," she said. "There is obviously a lot of interest, and it's great to be able to bring the culture to campus."
For the first time, the "Head Man" and "Head Lady" at the Powwow are both University students this year. Joey Thomas and Justina Benner will begin each dance before everyone else as a model for other dancers.
Thomas, a junior creative writing major, has been performing traditional Native dances for seven years. He performs at a variety of powwows from California to Ohio. The style of Native American dancing is what influenced him to get involved.
"It's a very proud thing to watch," he said. "There's an arrogance to it that's very respectable."
Though this will be Thomas' first year participating in the Spring Powwow, he is looking forward to the social atmosphere this weekend. "It's a good opportunity to meet a lot of people and network with other Native people," he said.
Emm hopes the event helps attract more Native American students to the University.
"We hope that younger Native kids will come and be able to look up to the students here, and decide to attend the University themselves," she said. "This year we have 31 of our Native students graduating, and that's about a sixth of the total Native population on campus. It's great, but we will really be down next year."
The event is not solely for Native Americans, however. With arts and crafts sales and activities, food, performances and a visit from Brooke Grant, Miss Indian World 2009, attendees will have many choices.
"We hope to get the community to understand and appreciate us and our culture a little more," said Emm.