Student group to host Naimuma Powwow

Portland State’s own United Indian Students in Higher Education (UISHE) will host the Naimuma Powwow today to honor and promote traditional Native American culture.

Portland State’s own United Indian Students in Higher Education (UISHE) will host the Naimuma Powwow today to honor and promote traditional Native American culture. The powwow will run through Saturday.

Naimuma means “relative” in Sahaptin, a native language shared by local tribes such as Warm Springs and Yakima, according to Sky Hopinka, the powwow coordinator. 

The powwow will begin Friday evening with the grand entry, a procession during which all powwow dancers from every category enter bearing flags. Carried along with the tribal flags will be the United States and Canadian flags, as well as the POW/MIA flag, which represents military personnel who are prisoners of war or are missing in action.

The representation of tribes by flags is important, according to Hopinka.

“The flags, it’s a small thing, but it…matters,” he said.  

Local tribes like Yakima, Warm Springs and Grande Ronde will be represented at the powwow, as well as out-of-state tribes like Navajo and Apache, Hopinka said. 

Saturday’s portion of the powwow will also begin with a grand entry. Dancing in a number of styles and categories will follow these entrances.  

The men’s dance categories are Northern Traditional, Grass and Fancy. Women dance in the Traditional, Jingle Dress and Fancy categories. Each has unique aspects of ceremony, refinement and speed. There is also a category for children.

The Naimuma Powwow is “part of the powwow trail,” Hopinka said. This is because—much like rodeo riders—powwow dancers often travel with powwows to dance and showcase their skill. The Naimuma Powwow’s categories are non-competitive, but are another opportunity to participate, Hopinka explained. 

The vendors will add traditional flavor to the powwow. UISHE member Rosa Frutos Lopez said that local and traditional native vendors are important to the integrity of the event. The vendors typically sell native crafts such as beadwork, quillwork and necklaces.

Hopinka emphasized that the crafts sold at the event are traditional, not simply “dream-catchers made [overseas].”

According to Hopinka, the powwow is also an event where one can honor visiting relatives.  

While the Naimuma Powwow is the largest event the UISHE organizes, it is not the only one, according to Lopez.

“We have lots of events throughout the year,” she said. 

UISHE is a student organization that strives to integrate university activities with local Native American traditions, as well as to raise awareness of Native American concerns.

Above all, however, UISHE stresses the importance of higher education, according to Lopez.

UISHE has been a group since the 1970s when it was purportedly just “a broom closet in Smith [Memorial Student Union],” Hopinka joked. He went on to explain that the group has always sought to make “native students feel welcome.” 

The events put on by UISHE are part of that reception, according to Hopinka. 

Another one of UISHE’s larger events is the Salmon Bake, which will take place in May on the South Park Blocks. The Salmon Bake involves cooking salmon in a traditional manner on pieces of dogwood over a fire, Hopinka said. He added that it is one of the student group’s most successful events. 

The Naimuma Powwow begins this evening at 7 p.m. in the Peter Stott Center gym. It will continue tomorrow at noon in the same location. For more information, contact UISHE at 503-725-5671. ?