Inside Denver March Powwow
By Emily Maxwell
April 17, 2022
For the past 46 years, Denver March Powwow has signified the beginning of spring and the kick-off of powwow season for many Native communities. What started as a way to connect youth at a local Native American center with their heritage has turned into an annual weekend-long celebration of Indigenous traditions, dance, music and cultures.
“Since most of Indian country lives off of tribal lands and in urban areas, this is a wonderful opportunity for us to get together, to see our relatives, to see all of our friends … and to also stay connected to our culture,” said Shadana Sultan, tribal relations specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau.
Drum, song and dance competitions take place throughout the weekend, attracting participants from around the country.
Photo by Roxana A. Soto
“You can’t have the powwow if you don’t have dancers. You can’t have a powwow if you don’t have drums and the music,” said Denver March Powwow
president Kenneth LaDeux.
Dance contests are held for both men, women and children, and honor the traditions of several Native communities. Denver resident and dancer Shannon Subryan has competed at Denver March Powwow since she was 3 years old.
“I have danced many different styles, Fancy Shawl and Jingle Dress, throughout my lifetime. I think that I came back to Jingle Dress because of its importance in healing,” she said.
Photo by Emily Maxwell
Denver March Powwow is one of the city’s largest annual attractions. “I think sometimes when people think of Indian country, they don’t necessarily think of the economics of Indigenous communities,” said Sultan.
This March marked powwow’s return after a two-year hiatus for the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Organizers and participants spoke with The I Am Denver storytelling team about the importance of Denver March Powwow as a safe place to uphold tradition for current and future generations and to teach non-Natives how to respect Indigenous cultures.
Photo by Roxana A. Soto
“I think it’s very important to know that wearing my regalia and having my hair in braids, I don’t put on a costume. This is my identity of who I am every single day,” Subryan said.
Emily Maxwell is a multimedia journalist and producer for the Denver Office of Storytelling. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.