The University of Iowa Powwow was founded in 1990. Before it was established, the Chicano Indian American Student Union held smaller gatherings where Native American dance was one of many symposium topics. In the fall of 1989 the American Indian Student Association (AISA) was founded by Orrenzo Snyder (Diné), Larry Lasley (Meskwaki), Alex Walker (Meskwaki), Judy Morrison (Osage), and Stephanie Griffith (Dakota), all whom are now alumni of the U of I. A separation from the Chicano Indian American Student Union (CIASU) was necessary to form a student group to better serve the needs of the Native American students on campus. In Fall 2013 students decided to change the name to Native American Student Association (NASA) to better fit with the changing of times.
NASA’s vision to host a Powwow at the U of I would eventually become a tradition and an opportunity to reach out to students and their families. It is a time when NASA is able to share their diverse song, dance, and art with the larger U of I community. It was held every spring to symbolize rejuvenation for Native American Students and Powwow participants. The very first Powwow at the U of I was held in 1990 during the second weekend of April at the Robert E. Lee Recreation Center in downtown Iowa City. The Powwow was sponsored with donations from Pepsi, and local businesses. There were about 400 people in attendance, which included 4 drum groups, 30 dancers and 3 arts and crafts vendors. The powwow was very successful and began to grow—what started as a one-day event grew into a three-day event with a wider range of dance categories, drummers and vendors. The last few years of the powwow have been host to more than 350 dancers, 18 drum groups, and 60 arts and craft vendors. The budget of the Powwow has also grown tremendously; in 1990 the budget was 3,000 and in 2004, close to 90,000.
The growth of the Powwow, while an amazing opportunity for the group, soon grew too much for NASA to handle. In 2004 the 15th annual powwow left NASA several thousand dollars in debt. The dwindling amount of students in NASA chose not to continue with the Powwow. Several years later, with the support of past NASA members, the current NASA members are highly motivated to bring back this U of I institution. It will be a much smaller event than in the past, but it will still exuberantly convey the rich traditions and diverse cultures of the Native American community in North America.
- Be on time. The Committee is doing everything possible to ensure that activities begin and run smoothly. Please cooperate in this regard.
- Always ask permission before taking pictures of any dancers, drum groups, or ceremonies
- Do not touch anyone’s regalia without permission. It is not a costume and should be respected.
- If you see regalia on the ground or see it fall off of a dancer, do not pick it up. Instead notify the dancer or drummer.
- The Flag Song, or Native American National Anthem, is sung when the American flag is raised or lowered. Please stand and remove hats during the singing of this song. It is not a song for dancing.
- As an volunteer, do not enter the dance arena unless invited. It is considered sacred.
- No alcohol or drugs allowed. Arrive ready to perform your volunteer duties
- Dress appropriately. No revealing clothes, think practical
- Parents should always watch their children. Never allow them to run through or play in the arena.
- Pay attention to the emcee. He or she will inform you of any special instructors during ceremonies and songs. He or she will also announce dances and dancers during competitions.
- If at any time you are uncertain of procedure or etiquette, please check with the MC, Arena Director, or volunteer coordinator or a powwow committee member. They will be glad to help you with your questions.