On April 23, Copley Lawn was transformed into a ceremonial site of Native American culture as Georgetown University and the GU Native American Student Council hosted the 5th Annual Pow Wow.
A pow wow is a social gathering of Native Americans from various tribes and First Nations. This year, Georgetown welcomed individuals and families from more than 30 tribes.
Pow wows are considered sacred spaces and follow their own etiquette and traditions. For example, some pow wows will open certain portions of the ceremony, such as roundtable dances to the public for viewing, however, photography is often forbidden to ensure the space and participants, including young children, are respected.
The Georgetown ceremony began with an invocation from Ralph Zotigh, leader of the Zotigh Singers and a respected voice in the D.C. Native community, followed by the Grand Entry.
During the Grand Entry, everyone stands as flags and Eagle Staffs are carried in, usually by veterans, followed by special guests and a procession of dancers signifying the ‘bringing together of the tribes.’ Once everyone was in place; the American flag is placed at the top of the circle and a song is sung for the flags.
While religion and spirituality varies among tribes, First Nations and individuals, animals have always been part of Creation stories. Zotigh said it is commonly misunderstood that Native Americans worship animals. This is not so, he explained. Native Americans do not worship animals, but honor and respect their sacred nature, often depicting them as messengers between ancestors and the Creator.
This clarification highlighted the importance of such events like the Georgetown pow wow, where both ceremony and learning can take place and is done by listening to and interacting with Native Americans – an underrepresented identity and history here on campus.
As a pow wow coordinator, my own experience was characterized by an immense appreciation and gratitude of the community formed as our Native American participants, guests, and sponsors, such as Campus Ministry came together to make this significant event and ceremony happen right here at Georgetown.
Written by Becca Yates, C’17.