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Rochester Public Schools to host powwow for first time since pandemic began

The powwow will be held Saturday, May 21 at Mayo High School, with the grand entry beginning at 1 p.m. The event is open to the public.

RPS Powwow
A drum circle performs at the the inaugural Rochester Public Schools powwow at John Marshall High School in 2018.
Contributed / Rochester Public Schools
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ROCHESTER — For the first time since before the pandemic, Rochester Public Schools will host an in-person powwow in honor of its Native American students and their families.

The powwow will be held Saturday, May 21, 2022, at Mayo High School, with the grand entry beginning at 1 p.m. The event is open to the public.

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A powwow is a traditional Native American ceremony that focuses on singing and dancing. According to a press release from RPS, this year’s event will include “invited drums, tiny tot special, 50/50 raffle, hand drum contest, handmade American Indian goods, and more.”

This year’s event also will include a Feather Ceremony, which has been held separately in years past. According to Amelia Cordell, American Indian Liaison for RPS, there are seven Native youth graduating this year.

“A big part of any event, you receive an eagle feather,” Cordell said. “(It represents) the importance that you have gone through something really challenging, and you have earned it.”

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The powwow is just one of several steps the school district has made in recent years to highlight its relationship with the Native American community. In 2021, a student nominated the name “Dakota” for the new middle school, which was then approved as the final choice.

Also, during every school board meeting, the chairperson reads a statement, acknowledging the district facilities are located on the ancestral land of the Dakota people.

Although the event is held by the school district, it will attract dancers and families from a wide area. Cordell said the powwow will draw people from as far away as South Dakota, as well as from closer tribes, such as those in Shakopee and Prairie Island.

In 2021, RPS held a series of virtual events and speakers to take the place of an actual powwow.

There are approximately 175 Native American families attending Rochester Public Schools, representing a variety of sovereign nations.

“The RPS Celebration Pow-wow is a unique opportunity for our American Indian community which is made of members of many different tribes to come together and honor our graduates as one,” a statement from the district said.

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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