Pow wows are a cornerstone of Native American culture and have brought together different kinds of people and tribes for generations, and ASU is bringing together people from all over the country for its 32nd Annual Pow Wow.
The pow wow will be a weekend-long event, beginning on March 30 and ending on April 1 on the ASU Band Practice Field in Tempe.
Darnell Baker, assistant coordinator to the Pow Wow Committee and ASU alumnus, said pow wows started in the early 1800’s when the U.S. government made Native American dances and rituals illegal. He said tribes would put on these events to exhibit their culture and their talents, as well as avoid legal repercussions by making public events out of their rituals.
Darnell said pow wows began to include contests over time, putting up prize money for the best dancers. This lead to modern or “contemporary” pow wows, he said, with some events having prize pools of up to $250,000.
Tahnee Baker, Darnell’s wife, lead coordinator of the event this year and social work graduate student, has been the coordinator for the event for five years.
Her father was the lead coordinator of the pow wow for 25 years before he died, Tahnee said. When she was younger, she used to dance in the pow wow and decided to take on her father's role as event coordinator after he passed.
“It’s been a significant part of my life growing up,” Tahnee said, “It’s just something we look forward to every year.”
Tahnee said it was intimidating to tackle the challenge of running the ASU Pow Wow after seeing her father run it and put in all the hard work he did over the years, but added she saw the hard work pay off.
“I just wanted to make sure to keep that going for him,” Tahnee said.
Family is a big factor in the lives of Native Americans and the Bakers are no exception.
Darnell said he enjoys the Grass Dance, because it is something he grew up doing with his father. Darnell passed this onto his son, who performs as a Grass Dancer at pow wows.
The Bakers said they plan to pass the pow wow down to their children once their time running it is over, adding that their eldest son is already involved in a lot of the planning of the event.
The ASU Pow Wow Committee is also in talks with the 365 Community Union to have the pow wow in the Sun Devil Stadium next year for the first time ever, Tahnee said.
“This is something we’ve always kind of dreamed of,” Tahnee said.
Bill Moore, a long-time attendee of ASU's Pow Wow, will be attending for his sixth year in a row.
He said he began attending pow wows with his wife around 2010, and they have since taken a particular liking to ASU's.
Moore said a big aspect of going to ASU's Pow Wow is “that feeling of goodwill when you shake hands with somebody that you haven’t seen for a few months.”
The drums played at the event are another drawing factor, Moore said.
“(The sound of the drums) gets inside your soul and moves you around a little bit,” he said. "Honestly, it’s a religious experience to me.”