Annual powwow preserves, promotes native heritage


The Golden Eagle Intertribal Society at The University of Southern Mississippi will host the 14th Annual Powwow April 14-17 at Willie Hilton Park in Petal.

The annual event promotes preservation of Native American heritage and educates non-natives about Native American culture. It typically features different types of dancing and the selling of various handmade Native American crafts, clothing and food. The park will host the event for the third time. In previous years, it was held around the USM campus and at other nearby locations.

The event will begin with a school day for the fourth-grade Petal school children on April 14, during which they will be exposed to Native American games and crafts.

“Because statistics have been newly integrated into standardized testing for the youth, my statistics students come teach the Petal fourth- graders about means, medians, modes, ranges and graphing as they are playing games and learning the crafts,” said Tammy Greer, a Southern Miss professor and faculty adviser for the GEIS.

The Powwow itself will take place on April 15 and April 16.

“Powwows are events where Native Americans can get together, see old friends, learn about the other native cultures and share our cultures with others,” Greer said. “There will be Powwow dancing and Choctaw social dancing, hominy and Indian Tacos to eat and lots of crafts and jewelry at the vendor booths. This year we are honoring those in our communities with disabilities.”

“A Powwow is a symbol for renewal for many tribes throughout the United States and Canada,” said Nicklaus Shumake, GEIS secretary. “[It represents] renewal in peace, friendship and a community celebration that shares a tradition to dance. [It] is an opportunity for us to get to know one another. It’s fun and family oriented with lots of food and dancing and songs.”

According to the United States Census Bureau, Native Americans made up about 2 percent of the total United States population in 2014. This sparse existence makes the need to preserve and promote heritage all the more important.

“In order to understand something about a culture that is represented by only two percent of the population, we really have to outreach efforts,” Greer said. “We love to powwow, to meet new people and to share our cultures. And we would love for everyone to come and join us.”

“We have some fantastic and generous sponsors including the Mississippi Humanities Council, Forrest General Hospital, the Mississippi Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the Southern Miss President’s Office, Honors College, College of Arts and Letters, College of Science and Technology, and College of Education and Technology, Coke, the Petal Chamber of Commerce, the City of Petal and the Hattiesburg Convention Commission along with several businesses in Petal,” Greer said. “We really appreciate their support.”