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Powwow at GVSU celebrates Native American heritage

Native Americans from a number of different tribes throughout the region gathered this weekend for a Powwow at Grand Valley State University. Hosted by the University’s Native American Student Association, the two day Powwow featured Native American music, arts, food and dance. While a large drum circle assembled in the middle of the university’s Fieldhouse, attendees performed a variety of traditional Native American dances throughout the celebration. 

“For me a lot of this is, I am here dancing for myself, because it is kind of my church," Angelo Franchi from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa Chippewa said. "It is where I get to express myself and be myself, but also that, for the people in our community who can’t be here, it is to honor them too, which is why I am here to dance,” he said. 

Dressed in full Native American Dance Regalia, Franchi explained its symbolism.  

“You see on my fan, I have seven feathers. On my dance stick, I have seven feathers. Those seven feathers stand for our seven teachings, our seven grandfathers," he said. "The colors that I wear are traditional colors, black, red, yellow and white, and you will see a lot of bear insignias with my regalia, and that represents that I am bear clan."  

While Arena Director R.J. Smith said the gathering was more of a celebration than ceremony, the event began by honoring the veterans whose ultimate sacrifice ensured the freedom that made holding the Powwow possible. 

“We hold our warriors in great regard of all nations, so we started off honoring them in a really good way," Smith said. "By singing and dancing for them, we are taught that this arena comes from our warriors, our veterans, and it was a gift from them to the community to have a good time. This isn’t a ceremony, this is a way for us to celebrate,” Smith said.  

The Powwow, titled “Celebrating All Walks of Life,” was one of a number scheduled this year in Michigan. 

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