2019 KU Powwow & Indigenous Cultures Festival Features Indigenous Artists’ Work

Published March 19, 2019

LAWRENCE, Kan. — This year, the annual KU Powwow and Indigenous Cultures Festival will encompass several events in the month of March, culminating with a full day of activities at the Powwow, which is being held at the Lied Center of Kansas on April 6. The 2019 KU Powwow and Indigenous Cultures Festival is presented by the KU First Nations Student Association (FNSA), Lied Center, KU Office of Multicultural Affairs, Native Faculty and Staff Council, KU Indigenous Studies Program, Spencer Museum of Art, KU Film and Media Studies, and Jancita Warrington (cultural consultant). All of the festival events, as well as the Powwow, are intertwined with the launch of a grant-funded project, the Indigenous Arts Initiative, at the University of Kansas.

As a partnership between KU (Spencer Museum of Art, Film and Media Studies, and the Lied Center) and the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, the Indigenous Arts Initiative supports a rotating series of Indigenous art labs that provide emerging Indigenous artists opportunities to expand their professional networks, hone creative skills and gain leadership experience through collaborative, mentorship-based programming at KU. Through an application process, two emerging artists were selected, Sydney Pursel and Robert Hicks, to work alongside NEA-funded 2019 visiting artists Sterlin Harjo (filmmaker) and Steven Grounds (visual artist) in a two-week residency at the end of March through the beginning of April.

During the KU Indigenous Cultures Festival, the public is invited to view works of the visiting and emerging artists as well as attend discussions and lectures in March at several events that are open to the public. Some of these events include a public showing of Harjo’s film MEKKO with a Q&A at the Lawrence Arts Center on March 27 and an exhibit featuring works and a live painting by Grounds and other Indigenous artists at the Cider Gallery on March 29.

Another special aspect of the KU Powwow and Indigenous Cultures Festival this year is the
construction of a grass dwelling that will be built outside of the Lied Center. The lead builder on the
project is Gerald Miller, Wichita Tribe Elder. Miller learned grass‐house building from his aunt and uncle,
and his family has built grass houses previously in Indian City. The dwelling at the Lied Center will be
made of local grasses, such as switch grass and blue stem grass, as well as materials from cedar, juniper
and willow trees. The dwelling will be constructed in the days leading up to the Powwow, and it will be
on display for the public at the powwow on April 6. Volunteers from KU and Haskell Indian Nations
University and local Boy Scouts are helping with the construction of the grass house. Anyone interested
in volunteering with the build within the timeframe of March 28 through April 2 can contact Lied Center
Engagement/Education Director Anthea Scouffas for more information (anthea@ku.edu).

The festival events in March and the KU Powwow and Indigenous Cultures Festival on April 6 are
free and open the public. The events on April 6 begin at 11 a.m. and will feature the Powwow Grand
Entry, competitive dancing, educational workshops and sessions, Indigenous art and films, and children’s
programs focused on indigenous cultures and history. Regional Indigenous artists and craftspeople will
have items for sale, and Indigenous food will be available for purchase throughout the day. The Grand
Entry times are 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on the day of the Powwow. See page 3 for the Powwow schedule or
visit lied.ku.edu.

This year represents the 31st year of the KU Powwow. In recent years, FNSA and the Lied Center
established a partnership with a vision to foster the growth of the KU Powwow into the KU Powwow and
Indigenous Cultures Festival, focusing on educational opportunities and celebrating North American
Indigenous cultures. This collaboration has allowed FNSA to have a home for its annual Powwow at the
Lied Center, resulting in increased community attendance, expanded educational activities
and additional support for Indigenous food and craft vendors. More than 10,000 local and regional
attendees have taken part in the Powwow and festival experiences since the first collaboration in April
2016. “From the perspective of an Indigenous person, this event has made KU a better place. Indigenous
people and cultures are somewhat invisible, but this event helps make us visible,” Melissa Peterson, KU
TRIO SES & STEM Academic Coordinator and advisor for FNSA, explained.

Additionally, the Lied Center of Kansas will host a ticketed concert on Friday, April 5 at 7:30 p.m.
with Nataanii Means, Oglala Lakota/Omaha/Navajo hip‐hop artist and son of prominent American Indian
activist Russell Means. This concert is in association with the KU Powwow and Indigenous Cultures
Festival. Tickets for the concert can be purchased at lied.ku.edu or by visiting or calling the Lied Center
Ticket Office.

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