For David Cleveland, competing in pow wows is a way to get good exercise, travel and meet new people. The Wisconsin native and Hochunk tribe member traveled to East Lansing last month for the first Pow Wow of the season: Michigan State University’s annual Pow Wow of Love.
“I compete in fancy dancing,” he says, “which is what my family is kind of known for.”
Fancy dancing is the most contemporary of all the dances competed in at the pow wows, with its style similar “to a horse galloping around,” as Cleveland says. It is in contrast to the more traditional religious dances, which have much more restricted movements.
Sean Patrick of MSU’s North American Indigenous Student Association, which co-sponsored the event, says pow wows are important not only culturally to the Native American people but also as a way to spread awareness of their traditions.
“The reality is there’s not a lot of education out there about Native American culture,” he says, “especially contemporary Native American culture. This gives the community a chance to see who we are and what we do today, and a big part of that is maintaining the traditional culture that we do have.”
Pow wows are held each week during the summer months throughout the country and are open to the public.