NAU brings back Pow-Wow in new exhibit


By Kendra Straub

Staff member Sean Evans (left) talks about the display case with Andie Belone (center) and Carissa Tsosie (right) during the opening of the Powwow installment Thursday at Cline library. (Photo by Matt Valley)

November is Native American Heritage Month and Northern Arizona University (NAU) is participating with an exhibit dedicated to showcasing Flagstaff’s annual Native American Pow-Wow in Cline Library.

Flagstaff hosted the Pow Wow from 1929 to 1979 with a four-day celebration held over the Fourth of July weekend. The Pow-Wow consisted of re-enactments of ceremonies for the public, a parade showing Native American dances and costumes and a rodeo. The Flagstaff All-Indian Pow-Wow has brought over 100,000 guests to Flagstaff through the years.

“The exhibit focused on the Fourth of July celebration and the tribes that came to town,” said Todd Welch, digital access librarian.

The exhibit is located in the special collections and archives section on the second floor of Cline Library and consists of photographs dating back to 1929, as well as manuscripts and publications from the Flagstaff newspaper, which showcase how the citizens of Flagstaff reacted to the event every Fourth of July.

“Every NAU student should be aware of where we live and understand all the different cultures that surround us,” said Amanda Mattei, a freshman elementary education major. “There is such an impressive history here is Flagstaff and this exhibit demonstrates it.”

“We have given multiple tours where we talk about the Special Collections and Archives and talk about the exhibit,” Welch said. “Students tend to mill around after [the] tour and enjoy looking at what we have.”

There is also home movie footage of the Flagstaff All-Indian Pow-Wow parades from 1959 to 1964. In addition, the exhibit contains KMGN radio broadcast from 1990 with local citizens such as June Bennally, Mike Cromer and Catherine Talakte describing their memories of the Flagstaff All-Indian Pow-Wow.

“The photographs and newspaper cuttings show the energy of the Pow-Wow,” Mattei said. “The collections of black and white photographs show the beginning of the Pow-Wow and the colored photographs show the progress the Pow-Wow experienced.”

The exhibit showcases all aspects of the Flagstaff All-Indian Pow-Wow with display cases holding quotes, magazines and costume jewelry. The Flagstaff All-Indian Pow-Wow was ended in 1980 after running for 51 years.

“The exhibit went over all aspects of the history, from showing how the event was promoted, discussing the economic impact the Pow-Wow had on Flagstaff and showed personal histories of cowboys and artists,” Mattei said. “The exhibit also highlighted the negativity the event faced from alcohol problem[s] and racism.”

Overall, the exhibit has been successful for those who have been involved in the creation of the exhibit and the NAU students who have attended.

“The Pow-Wow evokes many memories of a city-wide celebration,” said Sean Evans, Cline Library archivist. “For newer residents, it tells the story of a grand undertaking — bringing Native populations from all over the U.S. to put on a multi-day event that both celebrated, and to some extent, exploited native peoples. Certainly, it tells a story of the evolution of tourism if nothing else the exhibit demonstrates the synthetic process of telling a story using primary source material.”

“We have had a lot of positive feedback from the community and students who have come in,” Welch said.

The exhibit is free and will be open through July on the second level of Cline Library.


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