The annual event, which takes place the first Saturday of March, celebrates the heritage of Native American students in Evergreen, Vancouver and Battle Ground public school districts.
Drum circles lined the gymnasium of Covington Middle School in east Vancouver, Wash. Men and women wearing colorful regalia and elaborate headdresses danced to the thumping of the drums.
Some of the girls stomped to the beat, the jingling of their regalia filling the room. Some of the men synced the movement of their whole bodies to the sound of the drums. Some children moved more slowly, watching the others around them.
“You dance however the drumming makes you feel,” said Dave Jollie, a member of the parent committee for the Native American Education Program Title VII.
Several hundred people visited the middle school Saturday for the Traditional Pow Wow, sponsored by the Native American Education Program Title VII. The annual event, which takes place the first Saturday of March, celebrates the heritage of Native American students in Evergreen, Vancouver and Battle Ground public schools.
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“It’s a great gathering to let these kids come in and learn their roots,” said Sam Robinson, acting chairman of the Chinook Indian Nation and a Title VII program elder. “There’s a lot of community pride, as well. These kids are proud of their history.”
The Title VII program was established in 1972 to address the educational and cultural needs of Native American students. The local program offers tutoring to children in kindergarten through 12th grade. Students in the program also learn about their Native American history and culture. Students learn about beading, crafts of local artisans, drumming, dance styles and making regalia for those dance styles, Jollie said.
The local program has about 60 kids representing more than 80 tribes, he said.
The Traditional Pow Wow is a chance for the kids to share their traditions and learn about the traditions of others, Robinson said.
“It’s just to bring the native community together,” Jollie said.
“It’s good for the community, too,” Robinson added, “to remind them that we’re still here.”
Saturday’s event also introduced a new scholarship for Native American students at Clark College. The Dreamcatcher Scholarship — named in honor of Becky Archibald and Anna Schmasow, both of whom are active in the Native American Education Program and Clark College — is to help current and future indigenous Clark students fund their education, said Felisciana Peralta, of Clark’s Office of Diversity and Equity. Scholarship applications will be available this fall.
“The amount of students who want to go to college, we’re not meeting their needs,” Peralta said. “And we need to do better.”
At Saturday’s powwow, a blanket dance with local elected officials and representatives from the Vancouver Police Department raised $425 toward the scholarship, which will be available to those who identify as indigenous, whether they’re enrolled with a tribe or not, Peralta said.
“It’s pretty much a dream come true that we can help students go on to achieve higher education,” Archibald said.
The efforts of the Native American Education Program and the powwow, which has taken place in Vancouver for about 30 years, helps to strengthen the communities and traditions, said Archibald, who is enrolled with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe and Southern Sierra Miwok.