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36th annual Dartmouth Pow-wow draws thousands

Organized by the Dartmouth College student group Native Americans at Dartmouth, the annual event has become one of the largest pow wows in the Northeast and is the first of the season there. Participants and visitors shared two days of dance, song, prayer, traditional arts and crafts, food and visiting.

Although Dartmouth was founded in 1769 specifically to educate Native youth, it wasn't until 1970, and newly inaugurated former college president John Kemeny, that the college truly began to fulfill that mission. Kemeny established the Native American Program and the pow wow began three years later.

Cara Wallace, '03, acting director of the Native American Program, told the faculty and staff newspaper, VOX of Dartmouth, that the pow wow serves to honor and celebrate Native cultures and is important for many members of the Dartmouth community.

''Students, faculty and staff have been very enthusiastic and supportive,'' Wallace said. The pow wow is a ''reunion of sorts'' for Dartmouth's Native alumni, and she looked forward to meeting ''some old friends.''

Daryl Concha, '11, Taos Pueblo, has participated in the pow wow for the past three years, according to VOX of Dartmouth; but this year - her first year as a student - she served as the head female dancer, one of the most significant figures at the event. Her role required her to lead all dances and award the winner of the Jingle Dress Dance, among other duties.

The two-day event featured blue skies, warm air, and just enough of a breeze every now and then to cool off the dancers.

Lillian Goodeagle, Dakota and Northern Cheyenne, traveled from South Dakota to attend the pow wow for the first time.

Goodeagle's son, Ronnie Goodeagle Jr., a Grass dancer, was the pow wow's head male dancer. He traveled from Green Bay, Wis., to dance. But her son wasn't the only member of the family in the area.

''My dad is here also. He ran the Boston Marathon a couple of weeks ago. He's 76 years old.''

Her connection to Dartmouth goes beyond the pow wow.

''I had a great-grandfather who graduated from here; his name was Charles Eastman. So we like to come out and see some relatives.''

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Eastman was a famous American Indian author, physician and reformer who was active in politics and helped found the Boy Scouts of America. He graduated from Dartmouth in 1887 and went on to earn a medical degree from Boston University in 1889.

Caravans of families from all over the Northeast attended, including Ingrid Brooks and Janis Maooney, Micmac, from New Brunswick.

Brooks wore a magnificent jingle dress that took her about a year to make, she said. Maooney was a Fancy Shawl dancer. Both were attending the Dartmouth Powwow for the first time.

''I like it. It's nice. It's one of the first ones of the season. I'll probably come back. They have lots of vendors, really good drum groups, really good dancers and nice weather,'' Brooks said.

Faith Merrick and her son, Craig, Sioux Cheyenne from Montana, live in Ledyard, Conn.

''We've been coming for 10 years. ... It's a good pow wow, just being around other Native people is good,'' Faith Merrick said.

Mystic River was the host drum and Black Brook was the guest drummer, with about six additional drums. Master of ceremonies Clint Brown kept all of the events moving smoothly while arena director Bruce Curliss kept the space safe and organized.

Two of this year's new events - a Potato Dance and a hand drum competition - were suggested by Kellyn James, '10, a student from North Dakota, and Cory Cornelius, '07, a researcher for the Institute for Security Technology Studies.

Most participants in the hand drum competition sang love songs in their Native language and in English.

The Potato Dance was a big hit. Couples had to balance a potato between them on their foreheads, dance with their hands behind their backs, and try to outlast other couples. The master of ceremonies called variations on the two-step, such as having the man raise his right foot while his partner raised her left foot while ''dancing'' up and down the whole time. Everyone at the pow wow, including spectators, was invited to participate.

Several people were honored, including Will Martin, '08, who was recognized by NAD for ''his outstanding devotion, service and friendship to the Native student community.''