The 11th annual Colorado Springs Native American Intertribal Powwow celebrated American Indian culture and heritage through colorful costumes, and traditional dance and song.

More than 2,000 people from throughout Colorado and neighboring states attended the cultural sights and sounds celebration Saturday at the Norris-Penrose Events Center.

For Diane Reynolds, the powwow was the perfect vehicle from which to learn about the nation’s native peoples.

“You get an opportunity to meet people and admire beautiful, creative works,” said the Cheyenne Mountain resident as she perused a rack of hand-sewn Native American garments.

Proceeds from the powwow support One Nation Walking Together, a native charity designed to improve understanding and appreciation for Native Americans. The organization works with community and agency leaders to ensure donated goods go to clinics, families, schools and social services agencies.

Pikes Peak region residents Rhetta Walter and her husband created the event as a way to break resentment and political divide among communities and bring people together. “This event exists to do good and it has grown from about 200 attendees to what it is today,” Walter said.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers thanked One Nation Walking Together for organizing the event. Master of Ceremonies Cordell KillsCrow welcomed guests and the Native American Women Warriors performed honor guard duties.

Spectators thrilled to dancers’ choreographed dance steps and dazzling, handmade performance regalia. Through song, Native American singers reflected their religious, war and social beliefs.

Native art and artisans and a live wolf exhibit also highlighted the celebration. A Hawkquest birds of prey exhibit provided visitors an opportunity to experience the behavior of raptors.

Getting up close and personal with a live wolf topped the entertainment bill for many thrill-seekers.

Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation founder Mark Johnson said wolves are not the man-eating killers portrayed in books and films. RMWF provides sanctuary, rehabilitation and natural environmental housing for abused captive-born wolves and wolf dogs.

“Wolves are shy, elusive creatures that kill only for food,” Johnson said of wolf mix Kiska, 4.

Cheyenne Mountain resident and wolf-lover Isabella Bowring, 13, agreed. “Kiska has a loving nature and is sweet,” she said as she collected kisses from her new friend.

The celebration also provided more than 50 vendors with an opportunity to display their artwork and crafts, beadwork, jewelry and an assortment of Native food.

Vendor Bob Butler has been creating elk antler-handle knives for years. “I buy the antlers from a guy in Idaho, and buy the steel blades and put everything together,” Butler said of his knives that fetch as much as $150.

Huajatolla Heritage Foundation representative Janet Altman said, “This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about Native American cultures.”

Melissa Robohn, who represented the Palmer Lake Historical Society, enjoyed the camaraderie of event-goers: “This is a convenient opportunity and is one I won’t experience anywhere else.”

Kimberly Meineke, who attended the event to celebrate her husband Rodney’s Cheyenne and Southern Ute heritage, agreed. “Rodney is the last in his family. After he dies, there is no one to carry on his heritage,” Meineke said.

While youngsters perused animal pelt and antler exhibits, Jeniva Owen, 2, opted to get her face painted at the Katie Bird Paints table. “This was our first time attending the event. We enjoyed it and wanted to show our daughter the Native American culture,” said mom Stephanie who attended the event with her husband, Spencer.

Saleen French, 9, said the colorful hand-sewn blankets were the best part of the event because “They’re so soft and pretty.”

Clutching a One Nation Walking Together brochure, Jessica Dynsdale, 17, said the powwow was the ultimate learning experience. “I want to learn as much as I can about Native Americans and this event is a good way to do that,” Jessica said.

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