Thousands of people from across the U.S. attend the International Powwow each year, except last year due to the pandemic.
For the last 50 years, United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck has hosted one of the largest powwows in the country and while the pandemic put a damper on things last year, this year will be bigger and better than ever.
When the world shut down last year, all Powwows came to a halt., but not for Tonia Jo Hall who says, she never stopped dancing on her own or in a virtual powwow online.
“It gave us all the opportunity, whether we wanted to compete in those specials or we just wanted to dance freely,” said Hall. “For me, I even dance with or without my outfit, but those specials on Social Distance Powwow, have really helped people connect.”
Tonia Jo Hall is a comedian and jingle dress dancer from Bismarck. She says the shutdown caused a disconnect. But now, dancers across the nation can come together again this fall at United Tribes Technical College.
Leander McDonald, President of United Tribes Technical College says, “With that excitement, I think that we’re going to have a great event. We’re anticipating a larger than expected crowd from our past events, just that everybody’s excited.”
Excited and relieved.
Hall says, “It’s a sigh of relief. It’s been so, I mean for everyone it’s been, hasn’t been normal. However life is now, it’s like our new normal. But I think the difference I think between online powwows and in-person is you can really feel the connections.”
Dancers, young and old, enter the arena as a cultural celebration. The singing and dancing are coupled with values, tradition, and spirituality passed through generations.
Hall adds, “I’m really excited that Tribes is going to be having their powwow. I think that it’s going to be good medicine. Not just for dancers and singers but there’s a lot of grandmas that go there and grandpas, we have a lot of our elders who look forward to the powwows and the medicine that comes within the connection.”
This year everyone will get to celebrate in the newly remodeled arena.
McDonald shares, “So we’ve only been in that arena one session. So we’re really looking forward to getting everybody in there and really letting the whole weekend play out.”
Hall says, if you have never gone to a powwow, now’s your chance.
“If an individual that doesn’t know about powwows is on the outside and feels so foreign,
and not welcome, I would suggest that they come, and they get that experience on their own.
and they feel the feeling that is there,” said Hall.
She says movement is medicine and we could all use some healing right now.
The 51st International Powwow is taking place September 10th through the 12th this year. The powwow and additional events by UTTC are estimated to bring up to four-million dollars to the Bismarck Mandan economy from the thousands of families that will visit.