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International Powwow Youth Day brings awareness to Native American culture

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Hundreds of students from area schools attended the United Tribes Technical College International Powwow's Youth Day program Friday, an event those involved say is important to broaden perspectives.

Jackie Bird performed a few love songs, including one involving a puppet, and demonstrated dances with the help of her grandchildren for the students and other audience members. Bird said her grandchildren have been performing with her since they could walk. Several students at the event helped her with a hoop dance, using several colorful hoops to make shapes.

Teachers and students also played "sweep the teepee," a game where players are given a command to form groups with two, three, four or five people, and anyone left out of a group is eliminated.

Much of the audience joined in a round dance toward the end of the program, where they held hands and formed a circle.

Bird has been performing at the United Tribes International Powwow since 1993, and she has traveled the country as a performer and singer for decades, even performing at the Salt Lake City Olympics Opening Ceremony in 2002.

The Youth Day program has been part of the powwow for at least 15 years, Memoree Skinner said. Skinner is a special education teacher at Theodore Jamerson Elementary School and is on the school's cultural and diversity committee. The event is a way to collaborate with Bismarck Public Schools, she said.

"It's important to be able to bridge that gap," Skinner said. "They say, 'OK, we talk about powwow, but what is powwow? What does powwow entail?'"

The program brings awareness to Native American culture that Skinner said she thinks is necessary. She taught in Bismarck Public Schools while getting her education degree from UTTC and said she was "shocked" by the amount of information students didn't know.

"I had a lot of questions asking me, 'Do you still live in teepees?'" she said.

Skinner said bringing the kids out to the circle in the arena is one of her favorite parts of Youth Day, and Bird said that having the students out dancing is almost like a blessing.

"It blesses the arena, because the children are so sacred," she said.

The powwow is being held through Sunday at United Tribes Technical College. More information can be found at unitedtribespowwow.com.

Jackie Bird performs a hoop dance for area students during Youth Day at the 2021 United Tribes Technical College International Powwow on Friday afternoon.

Reach Sam Nelson at 701-250-8264 or sam.nelson@bismarcktribune.com.

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