Scholars Tell Stories and Share Resources to Keep Pow Wow Commitment

Public Health; Social Work; Students

​Every year since 1990, Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis students and the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies have hosted an annual Pow Wow—a gathering that brings together people from all across the country to celebrate Native culture. The 30th annual event was to occur on April 11, 2020 with the theme of “Steps to Sovereignty: Decolonize, Indigenize, Revitalize.”  

With the coronavirus crises, this year’s Pow Wow was canceled. But, explains Buder Center Director Kellie Thompson, “We wanted to keep our commitment to our Pow Wow Head Staff — individuals who run the event, in their respective roles. We did this through the ways we have been taught by our elders: by creating relationships, learning through listening and elevating stories.”

The 20 students on the Pow Wow Committee each interviewed one Head Staff member as well as event vendor in mid-April about how the current pandemic was affecting their lives, their tribes and their traditions. 

The result was a digital book, the Pow Wow Committee COVID-19 Report and Resource Guide, created by the 20 students on the Pow Wow committee.  The book contains information about how Native people are dealing with issues of online education, keeping up tribal language revitalization while social distancing, leadership during a time of crises, and of course, the crushing health and economic impact the virus is having on reservations across the country.

“Interviewees were generous with their time, stories and knowledge, and each student created a unique document,” said Thompson. “Our goal was for people to find solidarity in these stories, resources that would be helpful for their communities and hope for our future generations.”