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Public encouraged to check out WE Powwow

The White Earth Powwow plays host to several dances and other activities. The public is encouraged to come and participate in the 146-year-old celebration. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham

Though it is traditionally viewed as a time for tribal members from across the country to gather together, the White Earth Reservation Powwow is open to the public — and event coordinator Dennis Hisgun says that’s not just lip service.

“It’s not just for native people, it’s for everybody,” he says. “I would really encourage our neighbors to come to at least one (dance) session, to observe, enjoy, and ask questions.”

Now in its 146th year, the annual powwow is one of the longest-running native celebrations in the region, Hisgun says.

“I think there’s one in South Dakota that’s 147,” he added, “but ours is definitely one of the oldest.”

The 146th Annual White Earth Reservation Powwow is set for June 13, 14 and 15 at the powwow grounds in White Earth Village.

Each drum and dance session begins with the Grand Entry, where all the dancers and drummers enter the arena at once.

“They all come in, 700-800 dancers in different regalia,” Hisgun said. “We have the Grand Entry at 7 p.m. on Friday (June 13), and at both 1 and 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday (June 14-15).

Every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces is represented during the Grand Entry, which is traditionally led off by the White Earth Color Guard.

“We also have some special dances and drum groups at each session,” Hisgun added.

For instance, there will be a hand drum competition during Saturday night’s session, where solo drummers will show off their best beats.

But the gathering is about more than drums, music and dancing, Hisgun added.

“We have lots of different vendors and artists showing off their work — and lots of food!” he said.

While the arts, crafts and food vendors will have their wares for sale, everything else at the powwow is free, Hisgun continued.

“There’s no admission charge at all,” he said.

A 5K run and walk benefiting the White Earth Diabetes Project will start at 9 a.m. on Saturday, with registration getting underway at 8 a.m.

The Diabetes Project supports families affected by the disease, and provides education and health information about prevention and treatment.

The Junior and Senior Princess and Brave contests will also be held on Saturday afternoon, and are open to enrolled members and descendants that live within a 25 mile radius of the reservation boundaries.

The junior division is open to ages 8-12, and the senior category is for ages 13-17.

 “It’s a competition, with judging,” Hisgun said. “They (the winners) will represent the tribe all year at various events.”

Even the community feast, set for Saturday night at 5:30 p.m., is completely free and open to the public.

“We seat about 3,000 people,” Hisgun said. “It’s a traditional feast, with turkey and wild rice.”

But of course, the main event is the dancing.

“We average about 700 dancers, in all age groups,” Hisgun said, “and about 25 drum groups from all over the country.”

Saturday’s events draw the biggest crowds —averaging about 1,800 to 1,900 in all —and with the dancers, the total number of people served during the feast approaches 3,000, Hisgun said.

“It’s a big, huge event for us,” he said. “It’s a time when our people bring out their best. The outfits the dancers wear are beautiful.”

For more information about the powwow, contact Dennis Hisgun at 218-902-0206, or the White Earth Reservation tribal offices at 800-950-3248.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454