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Bowdoin, NASA to host first-ever powwow tomorrow

May 3, 2024

For over a year, the leaders of the Native American Student Association (NASA) have hoped to host a powwow. Tomorrow, this hope will be realized as Bowdoin community members and local Maine tribes come together for the College’s inaugural powwow.

“A powwow is a community celebration where Native people and non-Native people come together and sing and dance,” Amory Malin ’24, co-leader of NASA, said.

Malin and Kami Atcitty ’24 became leaders of NASA in their sophomore year and since then have been thinking about ways to create space for the indigenous community at Bowdoin.

“One of the things we’re most excited about is just re-indigenizing different campus spaces,” Malin said. “Bowdoin is a PWI [predominantly white institution], and a lot of Native students haven’t always felt the most comfortable being in these spaces. But I think the powwow will be like a pathway to make Bowdoin a safe space for Native people to just exist and be themselves and be themselves in community with other Native people.”

This sense of community is particularly important to both Malin and Atcitty since they are far from home at the College, with Malin belonging to the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe and Atcitty to the Diné Tribe.

“Being away from your tribe can feel so isolating,” Malin said. “And so being surrounded by other Native people who know the Native experiences that you might go through is just a very powerful feeling.”

“The purpose of this Powwow is greater than us; it is for the community,” Atcitty wrote in an email to the Orient. “I do not use the word (community) loosely here. I mean community where we are in connection with all living things around us. Once we are in connection with all living things around us, only then will we be able to form community here at Bowdoin.”

Here in Maine, the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot and Abenaki tribes comprise the Wabanaki Confederacy, whose land stretches from Maine to Newfoundland. Members of the Wabanaki will be involved in the powwow as drummers, dancers, a master of ceremonies and arena director.

NASA has maintained a few relationships with the Wabanaki, but Malin acknowledged that the College does not have a strong connection with many indigenous people in Maine.

“I think hopefully if people who are Wabanaki or Native from elsewhere see this happening at Bowdoin, they might be more likely to want to go to Bowdoin because it would be a more safe space for Native people than maybe it has been,” Malin said.

Malin and Atcitty had help from the Office of Inclusion and Diversity and from advisors Kailey Bennett ’14 and actress Sarah Podemski in the planning process. Though the two seniors will be gone next year, they hope future Native students at Bowdoin, as well as the advisors, can help make the powwow an annual event.

Bennett is currently the Senior Program and Events Coordinator for Harvard University’s Native American Program. She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and is from Oklahoma. She was brought in by the College to advise NASA on their organization of tomorrow’s powwow after meeting Native Bowdoin students at Harvard’s powwow in September.

“[Harvard’s] first powwow since the pandemic was at the end of September, and when I was at the powwow, I saw a collection of Bowdoin students who had come,” Bennett said. “Being the alum that I am, I went over and introduced myself. It was a full circle moment for me, because when I was a Bowdoin student I took a trip to Harvard to see the powwow.”

Bennett was then connected with Podemski, who was hired to support Native students on Bowdoin’s campus and has been working with NASA since the beginning of the year. They created a planning team and first got to work in January.

“The idea to me is to just continue this momentum,” Bennett said. “This isn’t a single powwow, this is a powwow that’s going to continue on.”

Bennett said that this is the first-ever powwow in southern Maine, so the group is excited to invite not only students but also Native guests of the area, the greater Maine community and beyond.

“We truly led with the spirit of our NASA student leaders, who were so moved and so excited to have a powwow on campus, and [Podemski] and I wanted to do everything to support that endeavor,” Bennett said. “And so even though it’s definitely a short timeline to pull it off, I think we all as a team have done an excellent job of pulling it together.”

Atcitty reiterated the importance of the powwow occurring at the College, strengthening the presence of Native people at institutions that historically have not welcomed them.

“Given that Indigenous voices and perspectives aren’t safe in spaces like Bowdoin, it is important that we disrupt and re-create those spaces for ourselves, our friends and our people,” Atcitty wrote.

Malin noted that she has frequently been asked about who is welcome at the powwow. She clarified that everyone, no matter if they are Native or non-Native, is welcome and encouraged to show up.

“You are a welcome presence,” she said. “We want you there, we want community and we want it to be a welcoming space filled with love and joy.”


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