Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archeology Sponsors Trip to Harvard’s 25th Annual Powwow

The powwow aimed to celebrate Indigenous culture and educate non-indigenous people.

Sponsored by the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archeology (Peabody), students had the opportunity to attend Harvard University’s 25th Annual Powwow, a traditional ceremony dedicated to celebrating Indigenous culture. Attracting members from various Indigenous tribes, the event featured singers, dancers, and artists from across the U.S. and Canada.

The powwow was organized by the Harvard University Native American Program (HUNAP) and a committee of Indigenous Harvard students. Though Harvard’s annual powwow dates over 20 years back, this is the first year that Andover has organized a trip to the powwow, an effort spearheaded by Ryan Wheeler, Director of the Peabody, and Emma Lavoie, Administrative Assistant at the Peabody. Lavoie shared their motivations for this trip, highlighting the unique opportunities the powwow offered for students to learn about Indigenous practices.

“This is a precursor to Indigenous Peoples Day coming up on October 9, so it is not only raising awareness on that, but also giving the students an opportunity to be able to have the exposure and the experience to witness an Indigenous cultural tradition… What is beautiful [about the] powwow is that they welcome everyone,” said Lavoie.

Each year, HUNAP invites local colleges and high schools to attend their powwow. Jordan Clark, Assistant Director of HUNAP and a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah, hopes the event can serve as a space for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from across the U.S. to learn about and celebrate Indigenous culture.

“There might be other schools who don’t have a [Native American] program and might not have a very big Native American population, but there might be both Native and non-Native students who want to explore and understand that culture. Native students at Andover can always come to our powwow, know that there are other Native people in this area, and celebrate as well. For non-Native students, you might not get to [see] a powwow in your life, so this is a chance to experience that and maybe ask some questions,” said Clark.

According to Clark, before Harvard began officially hosting powwows in the ’90s, undergraduate students had organized several powwows of their own. This year’s celebration marks the annual powwow’s return after a four-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“The earliest powwow that we have evidence of was in 1976. There were a few powwows that were planned by the undergraduate students in the ’80s, [but] the annual powwow as we know it today really started in the ’90s. It has moved across campus and even off campus over those years, so it’s been hosted in a lot of different areas,” said Clark.

For Capucine Riaux Franco ’24, the trip was her first time attending a powwow. Riaux Franco shared how she gained a deeper understanding of the diversity within Indigenous culture and expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to witness the different dances, attire, and singing at the event.

“For me, being in the United States was an opportunity to discover new cultures, and Native American culture is part of that. I really liked the dances. There were different dances coming from multiple tribes; from what I understood there were dances coming from, for example, Eastern, Western, Northern and Southern tribes, and it was really interesting to see the different styles of dance,” said Riaux Franco.

Beyond increased exposure to Indigenous culture, attendees also enjoyed the educational experience at the powwow. Chloe Park ’27, who had also never attended a powwow before, emphasized the importance of learning about Indigenous history.

“There was this one speaker [who] was talking about how the powwow started, and how Native Americans went to boarding schools in the early 18th or 19th century. Just listening to and remembering the struggles that they had to go through and understanding the history behind that, I think, is really important. The powwow was a really fun experience, but it’s [also good] to understand the history behind it,” said Park.

In the future, Lavoie plans to bring celebrations of Andover’s Indigenous community to campus. She expressed excitement towards upcoming opportunities for Andover students to learn about Indigenous culture.

“Our student organization is looking to potentially bring events to campus and student-run events. We are actually having another Native artist in October, Ramson Lomatewama, that is going to be working with student art classes, and he is one of the first Hopi glass blowers for his community, so definitely stay tuned for more information,” said Lavoie.