Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 4
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman Hosts Symbolic Pášx̣apa Powwow

The inaugural Pášxapa Powwow took place at Whitman on Nov. 18. In collaboration with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) and Walla Walla Community College, Whitman’s gymnasium was transformed for the Powwow, the first held on Native land now used for Whitman’s campus for over 160 years. 

A Powwow is a social event held by the Native American community and can either be a celebration or a gathering including a competition. 

Jeanine Gordon is the Special Assistant to the President for Native American Outreach.

“People dress up and register to dance in regalia. They get prizes for winning. There’s drumming and singing and dancing. Sometimes Powwows are also to celebrate the time of year like a winter solstice. They can last 4-5 hours if they’re social or they can be shorter like contest Powwows, but [can be] up to 2-3 days sometimes,” said Gordon

The winner of this Powwow performed the “Jingle-Dress” dance.

The Jingle-Dress dance is widely known to be a result of a healing vision had by a Native man with a sick daughter of a woman dancing in a certain manner wearing the dress as described now to be the “Jingle-Dress.” This vision was believed to be healing, hence the alternate name for this dance is the “Healing” dance.

“The dress is made of small metal cones that cover [the] entire dress. They make a certain woosh sound when they move,” said Gordon

Whitman also received a flag from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) during the Powwow as a sign of acknowledgement. 

Sarah Bolton is Whitman’s president and has helped in providing space and time for the Powwow to take place.

“The College will display this flag at formal events like commencement to honor the history of this place and the continued and growing relationship between Whitman College and the CTUIR,” said Bolton.

The Powwow was structured and set up by the CTUIR council members and was decided to be for a full day but in two separate sessions.

“The council first decided that they wanted to do a contest Powwow instead of just a social one and then built the schedule based on that,” said Gordon.

Powwows have a long and important history in the Native American community. Gordon said that it’s popular belief that powwows came into existence after the American Indian Urban Relocation Act of 1953 that removed Native American reservation residents off the reservation and into cities to try to assimilate them into city life.

“That dispersed everyone out of a common place and they would find each other in these big cities and get together to dance and sing and drumming,” said Gordon.

Sophomore Lindsey Pasena-Littlesky performed the winning “Jingle-dress” dance during the Powwow. 

“I specifically chose this dance to contribute to the well-being of others, dancing for those who can no longer do so and offering prayers for everyone in the powwow arena, wishing them safe travels and good health. My dance is dedicated to the ongoing healing of my family, myself, my community, the land and future generations,” said Pasena-Littlesky.

“The Powwow was a very beautiful and historic event. It was an incredible honor to be joined by drummers, singers and dancers from around the region and from at least five different nations, and to see Lindsay Pasena-Littlesky ’26 lead in her role as Miss Pášxapa,” said Bolton.

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