The 64th Annual Nizhoni Days Powwow wrapped up their week-long event with a gathering on Johnson Field at the University of New Mexico on Sunday, April 28.
Crowds formed a circle under the sun around indigenous dancers, drummers and singers. A small market of more than 70 bright blue, white and red tents sold clothes, food and provided information on Native American causes and programs among others, under the shade.
Some dancers were local to Albuquerque, but Dan Nanamkin came as far as Washington from the Colville Indian Reservation. He heard about Nizhoni Days through a relative.
“They told me about this powwow and I was really happy to have an opportunity to come and check it out — I’ve never been to this one before,” Nanamkin said. “It’s my first time.”
Donning traditional beadwork, animal furs, feathers of all sorts and a black Nike tank top, Nanamkin said this isn’t the first time he’s done a powwow. In Washington, Nanamkin said, he does cultural presentations for students at colleges and elementary schools.
“One of the things I always talk about is the value of unity,” Nanamkin said. “Powwows are a good opportunity for us to have little moments of unity and hopefully we can go from that to build the strengths and values in our character.”
Nanamkin said he prefers smaller powwows over larger ones, especially contest powwows like the Gathering of Nations.
“You’re here to dance because you want to dance; you’re here because you want to be here. You’re not here to win money — you’re here to dance,” Nanamkin said. “This is what the true nature of the powwow is — to dance.”
Nizhoni Days began on April 22 and ran until Saturday, April 28. Hosted by KIVA Club, Nizhoni Days is a free event and open to the public.
Starting in 1955, Nizhoni Days predated and inspired the Gathering of Nations powwow said Jennifer Marley, the president of KIVA Club and a senior majoring in Native American and American studies.
“It’s known for being free and open to the public,” Marley said. “It’s a good way to support an alternative student-run powwow that really isn't interested in making money or capitalizing on the event.”
Marley said Nizhoni Days positions itself as an alternative to bigger powwows.
“It’s by the community and for the community,” Marley said.
Carleigh Laymenan was one of many among the crowd at Johnson Field. Laymenan, a former UNM graduate, said she tries to go to Nizhoni Days every year.
This year, she said, she came to support her friend who is a “main dancer” and to sell raffle tickets. She said she supports Nizhoni Days because they support the Native American community.
“It’s a free event and they’re not here to profit and make millions of dollars off Native people.” Laymenan said.
Laymenan said having small events like this in Albuquerque is good for the native community to get more involved and for the local non-indigenous community to learn more.
“(I hope) the nonnatives come away with knowing that cultural appropriation is wrong; to know that the land that we stand on is native land, and to appreciate our culture and what we share with you,” Laymenan said. “We’re still here — we’re still people.”
Anthony Jackson is the photo editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TonyAnjackson.