Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Celebration offers way to learn about American Indians

by JESSICA Allison jessica.allison@gazette.com - Published: July 18, 2013

As far as Al Walter is concerned, the culture of the American Indian needs more recognition.

So to celebrate the heritage of the 3,500 registered American Indians in the Pikes Peak region, this president of the Palmer Lake Historical Society has organized three powwows in Palmer Lake in the past. This year, he's moved the Native American Intertribal Festival and Traditional Powwow to the Freedom Financial Expo Center, 3650 N. Nevada Ave. in Colorado Springs.

While it might seem strange for an American Indian festival to take place indoors, Walter felt it was the right choice due to the unpredictable Colorado weather.

"Obviously you would like to have it outdoors but having it indoors doesn't really cause any issues," he says. "You can't really depend on a nice, calm, cool sunny day."

The change in location also offers opportunity for more people to attend, he says. Walter says he has seen about 500 guests at the powwows in Palmer Lake. This year, he is expecting more than 1,000 to partake in the native song and dance festivities.

The gathering will be a traditional, intertribal powwow, with the goal of bringing together American Indians of any tribe.

"Powwows bring people together. So we're hoping that the community comes back together - the ones that have gone their own way, the ones whose organizations have dropped out from under them," says Sebrena Forrest, a member of the Mohawk tribe who will be participating in the powwow.

However, the celebration is also for those without American Indian heritage. Forrest says it is the American Indian way to celebrate people of all races.

Walter says that while the powwow is a social experience for American Indian guests, for others it is intended to be an educational experience.

"A lot of folks really don't understand Native American tradition and culture," he says. "One of the things that we try to do at our powwow is have the master of ceremonies explain to the non-native audience what is happening."

In fact, the Palmer Lake Historical Society, which organizes the event, is a non-native organization.

In a traditional powwow, every aspect has significant meaning, including the circle the dancers move in.

"In the whole world, everything tries to be round," Forrest says. "The seasons travel in circles and you have a circle to walk through in your life from your birth and childhood and elder age."

Besides singing and dancing, there will be food vendors and crafts for children to learn about American Indians.

Also, the Palmer Lake Historical Society has partnered with One Nation Walking Together, which strives to help low-income American Indians across the country. One Nation will be taking nonperishable food donations.

Forrest says the powwow will be a joyful, colorful and educational celebration of the American Indian culture.

"Hopefully, guests gain a deeper understanding of the native culture and an appreciation of the natural world," she says.

NATIVE AMERICAN INTERTRIBAL FESTIVAL AND TRADITIONAL POWWOW

When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Freedom Financial Services Expo Center, 3560 N. Nevada Ave.

Tickets: $2, children 12 and under are free;

Something else: Donations of non-perishable food are accepted. Guests are asked to bring chairs.

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