(The following appeared in the Daily Oklahoman on 4/11/07)
EDMOND ?The children took up the beat from their grandfathers, fathers and uncles ?drumming through the 37th annual University of Central Oklahoma Native American Student Association's powwow held Saturday.
Teaching the children native drumming is one of the main purposes of the event, said Joseph Blanchard, president of the association.
"It's teaching the next generation our traditions and culture,” Blanchard said. "Without the drum, there's no powwow.”
Despite the cold weather, more than 300 people attended the Saturday powwow sponsored by the Native American Student Association and Multicultural Student Services. During the event, dancers showed off their traditional costumes and dances and performed American Indian songs passed through the generations. Visitors also had the chance to taste native food.
Just like dancing, the music is central to the powwow, said Blanchard, an absentee Shawnee tribal member. Powwows are especially important because that's where the music is passed down. Most of the music is kept by memory with the exception of a few CDs and recordings in the last few years, he said.
"We don't have songbooks like everyone else does,” Blanchard said.
Blanchard said each tribe has its own songs for different dances. For example, each tribe has a flag song, he said. Most songs are sung using vocables, which are not actual words but are instead rhythmic sounds, Blanchard said.
"It can be slow, graceful and beautiful, or upbeat and full of action,” he said. "To me it's like an opera.”
MeShawn Conley, director of multicultural student services at UCO, said the powwow is one of the largest events sponsored by the office and provides a great way for families to learn about American Indian culture, music, dancing and food.
"Native American culture is part of our culture in the state,” Conley said. "It definitely attracts a lot of people throughout the state.”
Student association members use the powwow to recruit students to UCO and to pique people's interest in their American Indian culture, Blanchard said.
"A powwow is a celebration of friendships, making new friendships,” Blanchard said.