This year’s Gathering of Nations Powwow, held in Albuquerque on April 25 and 26, dedicated its Miss Indian World Pageant to the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women for the first time ever. A national awareness campaign endorsed by lawmakers, including Democratic Congresswoman Deb Haaland, has fueled increased visibility of the epidemic of violence against Native women.
But Santa Fe’s Institute of American Indian Arts is ahead of the curve. For the third year running, IAIA’s Spring Powwow features a Red Shawl Dance for the Missing.
The annual powwow takes place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 11, in the Dance Circle on the IAIA campus, and the Red Shawl tribute is just one event in a packed schedule. Of the powwow, which features dance and drum competitions with more than $4,000 in cash prizes, student activities coordinator Nocona Burgess said, “It’s mostly nonstudents. We have quite a few students that participate and dance, but a lot of times being at college, a lot of students don’t have their regalia here. You just kind of bring your minimum stuff.”
IAIA as an institution is nonetheless represented by the powwow’s Head Man Michael R.L. Begay (Diné/Santo Domingo Pueblo) and Head Lady Shundina Nanamkin-Spencer (Diné/Apsaalooké/Colville). The IAIA students are responsible for kicking off the festivities. “No one’s allowed to go into the arena until the head man starts, and the head lady, too. They’re the ones that start every dance,” Burgess said. A dance and special song done by upcoming graduates also honors IAIA alumni.
The day kicks off at 10 a.m. with the Gourd Dance, a Southern Plains tradition that is followed at 11 a.m. by the Grand Entry of all powwow dancers, an invocation, presentation of colors, Flag Song, Victory Song, and welcome by IAIA president, Dr. Robert Martin. Food is available all day from local vendors and free for all attendees from the IAIA cafeteria between 3:30 and 5 p.m.
Art vendors at the powwow include traditional practitioners of beadwork, weaving, and pottery, as well as IAIA students selling contemporary art: T-shirts, silkscreens, prints, and paintings. Burgess said that the quality of the art is one of the main draws at the powwow — and that the students generally do very well in sales. “It’s good for them to get money to get home. Gas money and stuff like that.”
The drug-and-alcohol-free IAIA campus is at 83 Avan Nu Po Road. For more information, contact Burgess at 505-424-2339 or go to iaia.edu/happenings.