The Powwow was started in 1972 by a community group, American Indians at the University of Michigan (AIUM), at that time primarily a staff, faculty and graduate student group. The Native American Student Association (NASA) which primarily was an undergraduate group was formed in 1976, at which time they began helping out with the Powwow as well. Traditionally, every year NASA would evolve into a group whose emphasis was planning the powwow. This group consisted of community members and students (undergraduate and graduate students alike) who work year-round on making Powwow a success by fundraising and publicizing for the up-coming year. Each year, the Powwow grew to be bigger and better and it was then that the Powwow was brought under U of M's financial umbrella which was in 1982.
The Powwow has had a number of locations, including: Huron High School, the League, the Union, Ypsilanti's Cleary College, the Coliseum and Pioneer High School. In 1990, it moved to Crisler Arena, where it immediately doubled in size and where it remained until 2008.
In 2008, the powwow committee at the time consisting of NASA members and community members made the decision to turn down direct funding from the University of Michigan. The powwow was then moved to Saline Middle School in Saline, Michigan, just south of Ann Arbor. There is no reduction in the size of the powwow with this move. This fieldhouse-type was found ideal for the facility had more room for vendors, was handicap accessible and had adequate amenitiesfor visitors and participants.
In 2012, the Powwow was relocated back in the city of Ann Arbor city at the local Pioneer High School with a right across the street from the Big House. The members of NASA were able to revive and develop new relationships with multiple offices and departments across the university in an effort to help the success of the Powwow. This decentralized the planning work load for studnts and offices while retaining leadership with students of NASA. Providing not only an opportunity to share our Native Heritage with our campus, but also an experience to gain true leadership skills as students.
The Powwow Committee has been privileged to work with many coordinators since its beginning. These coordinators have helped the Powwow's attendance increase dramatically, strengthened the Powwow's ties to the local community, expanded the educational aspect of its mission and aided the committee in many ways.
If you are an Alumni of NASA please reconnect by emailing NativeAlumni@umich.edu and let us know what you are doing these days!
History of Native Americans and the Univeristy of Michigan
In 1817, the Ojibwe, Odawa, Potawatomi, Shawnee, and Wendat (Huron) inhabited most of what is now Michigan's Lower Peninsula. In the fall of that year, a treaty was signed between Michigan's Territorial Governor, Lewis Cass, and the Native tribes. In the treaty process, Governor Cass persuaded the Natives to cede 3840 acres of land, half of which was earmarked for St. AnneÕs Church, and half for "a college at Detroit" in which the Natives would be eligible to enroll.
While the territory had planned for a statewide school system centered on a university, no specific funds were allocated and no officers appointed. The territorial government then hastened to formalize the plans to ensure eligibility for the university land. Judge Augustus Woodward, Father Gabriel Richard, and Reverend John Montieth finally drafted the act that founded the University of Michigan. The government appointed officers and commissioned a building in Detroit in 1821, but no classes were held due to the lack of qualified students.
In 1837, land developers in Ann Arbor offered 40 acres on the edge of town as a new home for the University. The original Native gift land was sold and Michigan courts have since held that the proceeds of that sale remain part of the permanent endowment of the University of Michigan.
(Note: Early seals of the University show the founding date as 1837. This was before the University proved in court that the original donation of 1817 had remained intact in its accounting of funding sources.)