Youth Experience Native American Culture through Pow Wows

Pow wows inside OYA facilities allow youth to connect with their own culture and learn about others.

Native American drumming, dancing, and singing filled the Oregon Youth Authority’s youth correctional facilities over the past few months as the facilities hosted pow wows led by Oregon’s tribes and the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations (OIIR).

Pow wows are celebratory gatherings with a long tradition in tribal communities, says Katie Staton, OYA’s tribal liaison and Native American programs coordinator.

They are just one way that OYA connects tribes with youth. OYA has intergovernmental relationships with the nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon. To celebrate November as Native American Heritage Month, OYA partnered with the tribes and the Oregon Health Authority, Department of Human Services, and Oregon Department of Education to host recognition events this month in Portland and Salem.

Bringing events into OYA facilities helps Native American youth connect with their culture, but it also provides opportunities for other youth to learn about and connect with their peers, Staton says.

“Facility pow wows are open to all youth who are respectful and have an interest in learning about Native American culture and traditions,” she says.

“For the Native American youth, ceremonies are important opportunities to provide or reintroduce traditional spiritual and cultural values. This connection is crucial to their treatment and reformation needs, and it can help our youth become positive members of our communities.”

Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility

Oak Creek hosted a pow wow on July 21. Special thanks go to Nick Sixkiller, Ed Goodell, Stuart Whitehead, Ann Goddard, Chet Clark and family, Bill Stam and the color guard, and the Native American Rehabilitation Association (NARA) for their support.

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Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility

Rogue Valley’s pow wow on Sept. 15 was hosted by the Southern Oregon Indian Center, the facility, and OIIR. The event was emcee’d by David West, and longtime Rogue Valley volunteer Nick Hall was the whipman/spiritual caretaker.

The event featured dancers from Klamath Tribes, Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, and Aztec Dancers. Drum groups included Jonah Aaii, Good Medicine, Common Ground, and Staggered Butte. Rogue Valley volunteer Mary Tinoco, known as “Grandma Mary,” cooked the fry bread.

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Tillamook Youth Correctional Facility

Tillamook YCF’s pow wow on Oct. 6 featured Nick Sixkiller as the master of ceremonies and Ed Goodell as the ceremonial/spiritual whip man. Bill Stam led the color guard.

Drum performers included Chet Clark and family (Jononaai Drum) and the Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest (NARA). Head dancers were Stuart Whitehead and Ann Goddard, and the fry bread cook was Tamorro Gabbert. Special thanks also go to volunteer Dottie Gulespie,  who provides a drum group for youth at the facility.

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MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility

MacLaren hosted a pow wow on Oct. 27. In addition to dancing, song, and food, the event took time to honor the indigenous peoples whose traditional and ancestral homelands MacLaren stands on.

Master of ceremony was Nick Sixkiller, and the ceremonial/spiritual whip man was Ed Goodell. The color guard was led by Bill Stam, and drum performers included Chet Clark and family (Jononaai Drum), Warrior Society (Red Lodge Drum), and Moccasins Muffins.

Head dancers were Stuart Whitehead, Nick Hall, and Tom Smith. Fry bread cooks were Naomi and Patrick Dellece. The Aztec dancers included Fabiola Rivera, Aaron Weldon-Pineda, and the Aztec community. Dottie Gulespie, a volunteer at Tillamook YCF, also participated.

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