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New Beginnings: Fraternity From Cowboys and Indians Party Infamy and Native Student Alliance Start Anew

For Lambda Chi Alpha brother Sam Murphy, 21, the second annual New Beginnings Pow Wow at the University of Denver (DU) was an event he couldn’t have prepared for, though he said he tried to by watching footage of powwows online.

“I looked up a couple YouTube videos,” he said. “Seeing it in real life is much different. You can’t prepare yourself for a spiritual event like that. That was unbelievable.”

The May 19 powwow, co-sponsored by Lambda Chi Alpha, was the culmination of more than 10 weeks of amicable dialogue between the fraternity and the Native Student Alliance (NSA) concerning how to move forward following a February 25 Cowboys and Indians theme party, hosted by Lambda Chi, which had pitted the student organizations against one another.

Since then, according to NSA President Jessica Pearl Salas, 21, the two groups have spent hours discussing possible steps toward inclusive excellence at DU.

Both student organizations have even dined together at Lambda Chi’s frat house during their campus-famed Friday barbecues, which, according to Lambda Chi Vice President Ross Larson, members of NSA have an irrevocable invitation to.

Salas said she was honored to have so many Lambda Chi brothers attend the powwow as well as for Murphy’s sincere interest in such a time-honored cultural event.

“I thought it was so great of them,” she said. “(Murphy) was at the powwow the whole day with us. He was asking questions. He was commenting on how beautiful the fancy dancer’s regalia were. I think it showed a big change on this campus that’s hopefully coming.”

Murphy was one of several Lambda Chi members who manned an information booth during the five-hour powwow. Lambda Chi representatives provided professors, fellow classmates and passersby with print outs of information regarding the history of powwows and their significance to Native American peoples.

Amanda Williams, 19, a San Carlos Apache and Diné and a junior at DU, said she was taken aback by the genuine excitement of the 15 Lambda Chi students who attended.

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“I’m really glad that Lambda Chi came out and that they were there and for all they did,” she said. “They did it with a smile on their face. It was their willingness to come out that was pretty dope. The want was there and that topped it all off.”

And not only was it Murphy’s first powwow, he said, it was his first experience with fry bread.

“That was unbelievable!” he bellowed. “I told my friends, ‘You need to get some of this fry bread.’ I didn’t know how to attack it with a plastic fork.”

The powwow registered more than 90 dancers, eight drums and was catered by Denver American Indian eatery Tocabe.

University of Denver Chancellor Robert Coombe and Provost Gregg Kvistad both attended the powwow, said Salas.

“We have lots to learn from cultural events like this,” said Murphy. “I’ve never seen anything more beautiful or eloquent than the women’s fancy. It’s a shame that we only have one (powwow a year).”

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