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The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Native student organization moves powwow off campus

Assad Malik
Head Lady Naakaii Tsosie dances at the UT Austin Powwow on April 8, 2023.

The Native American and Indigenous Collective’s annual powwow will take place off campus after the organization faced challenges working with the University last year, NAIC co-directors said.

The Collective historically held the powwow on campus, though it has been moved off campus a few times in the past, co-director Raven Price-Smith said. Last year’s powwow — which marked the event’s return following the pandemic — took place on UT’s Main Mall. This year, the powwow will be held at the Delores Duffie Recreation Center in East Austin on April 21.

“This year, we already knew it wasn’t going to be on campus so that we didn’t have to worry about all these different things and having to present ourselves a certain way or change how a powwow is because of all the rules,” said Price-Smith, an architectural engineering junior.

According to a 2023 email from a Student Organization Center representative, the Collective could not have off-campus vendors at their event last year. Additionally, the organization had to obtain permits to cook and distribute food on site, according to the email. The Dean of Students’ website lists guidelines for events. 

Co-director Kennedy Cortez said powwows traditionally involve dancers, vendors and food. They said having the powwow on campus would compromise these elements. 

“They were very restrictive and not supportive,” neuroscience senior Cortez said. “It’s frustrating especially considering how underrepresented we already are and the fact that we’re having to ask for the bare minimum on our own land, it’s a slap in the face.”

In an email statement, the Office of the Dean of Students said they invite students to meet with staff or email their questions to the office for support. Staff reserved 10,974 indoor spaces and 418 outdoor spaces for registered student organizations so far this year.

“Our staff are here to help all students make the most of their time at UT,” the office said. “We meet with registered student organizations and answer questions to help organizations navigate campus policies and host successful events of their own design.”

Moving the powwow off campus created its own challenges for the organization, like finding a venue and obtaining enough funding, Cortez said. But the NAIC received support from other local native organizations, including the nonprofit Great Promise for American Indians, which hosts the annual Austin powwow, Price-Smith said.

“All these people have been supporting us so much, whether it’s navigating the system, getting tax exemptions or actually donating to us,” Cortez said. “It’s really beautiful to know that we have that community to lean on.”

Nan Blassingame, programs director for the Great Promise for American Indians, said she’s helped students in the NAIC with planning for the powwow this year and last year. 

Price-Smith, and last year’s other NAIC co-director, interned under Blassingame last year. 

“(They learned) how to run their own powwow,” Blassingame said. “So that’s how they were able to bring it back last year. … We were so proud.”

Cortez said holding the powwow off campus marks a shift from the event being the  “UT powwow” to the “NAIC powwow.”

“It’s our powwow because we’re doing all the work,” Cortez said. “We’re making it happen through community by other native organizations supporting us and through ourselves.”

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About the Contributor
Assad Malik, Photo Editor
Assad Malik is a sophomore RTF major at UT and serves as the Photo Editor for The Daily Texan.