NewsMissoula County


Missoula County Public Schools' Native Youth Powwow returns after pandemic

POWWOW cover.jpg
Posted at 3:51 PM, Apr 24, 2023

MISSOULA - Sentinel High School will play host to the Native Youth Powwow on Saturday, April 29, 2023, for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The powwow is through MCPS Native American Student Services and supported financially by All Nations Health Center. The event is meant to honor MCPS youth and graduating seniors.

The celebration will be led mostly by young people, including a youth MC, youth drum host and even a youth-made poster. It is an opportunity Native youth don't have at other powwows, where the leadership roles go to adults.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to get them to be part of a great powwow," MCPS, Native American Specialist Mary Plumage says. "We incorporate the youth as much as we can."

Plumage adds that working with the powwow, whether through singing, dancing or announcing, can give students extra confidence and courage.

Some students will have never danced in a powwow before, according to Plumage, but this gives them an opportunity to connect with their culture before entering the post-high school world.

For Native American Specialist Raymond Kingfisher, encouraging Native youth to participate in the powwow is a way to pass on tradition to the younger generations.

"As older people, we are trying to teach the youth to continue on those ways," Kingfisher says. "Identity is huge for us."

Several families and Native community members have donated regalia for students to use.

All Nations and other sponsors have helped raise money for prizes for winners in each dance category.

Plumage says they are still accepting donations from the community and are looking for volunteers.

People who would like to help can contact the names on the powwow poster.

Despite its significance to the Native community, this powwow is at risk.

Kingfisher says because of limited funding for Indian Education in schools, the powwow may or may not be held next year.

Kingfisher says potential funds from the levees currently on the education ballot for MCPS will not help Native American Youth Services.

Still, Kingfisher, Plumage, and the other specialists in MCPS Native American Youth Services Department say they will continue to fight for funding through the district to be able to provide important cultural experiences for Native students in MCPS.