UT’s Native American Indigenous Collective Hosts Powwow Off Campus Due to S.B. 17
Apr 28, 2024

UT’s Native American Indigenous Collective Hosts Powwow Off Campus Due to S.B. 17

Reporting Texas TV

AUSTIN, Texas – After months of preparation, UT’s Native American Indigenous Collective (NAIC) hosted its annual all-day powwow at the Delores Duffie Recreation Center in East Austin.

A powwow is a gathering for Native American and First Nations communities to come together and honor their cultures through song, dance, chants, food and socializing.

In previous years, NAIC held powwows in front of UT’s Tower, but the passage of S.B. 17 dissolved on-campus spaces for diversity, equity and inclusion student organizations.

“We’re the only indigenous undergrad org on campus,” said Xochimilo Murguia Vazquez, powwow performer and an NAIC officer. “Native Americans on campus represent point one or 1%, basically like very minimal.”

Murguia Vazquez said the bill also takes away diversity, equity and inclusion resources like funding, supporting events on campus and access to staff in these spaces.

He added this has affected his mental health and academics.

“A lot of our officers have gone through it with classes. I had to drop two,” Murguia Vazquez said.

“I’m having to do incompletes and it’s because the more that someone is like, ‘We are not gonna support you, you can’t be like that, you don’t deserve to be like that’ is adding to injustice. There is something in us that is like, ‘We’re not gonna stand for that.’”

Co-director and powwow performer Kennedy Cortez said the organization changed its name from the Longhorn American Indian Council to Native American Indigenous Collective in 2016, and hosted one powwow every year until 2018.

NAIC had its first post-COVID powwow post-COVID in 2023.

Raven Price-Smith, NAIC’s other co-director, said so much went into planning the powwow that she hasn’t been able to balance the workload with school very well.

“With S.B. 17, it really puts a strain on your mental health so just being able to have this powwow and be out here and dance and be able to say the university didn’t help us at all with this, it feels amazing,” Price-Smith said.

Since the event was held off-campus, NAIC was able to incorporate elements UT didn’t approve of in the past, like outside vendors.

Sueitko Zamorano-Chavez, a vendor who uses the pseudonym 2SpiritQueer, sold art and talked about the meaning of the teal paint on her face.

“I’m from the Tototepec peoples (in Guerrero, Mexico),” Zamorano-Chavez said.

“I feel in community and people accept me even though I’m not specifically from their tribe or from their specific area of indigeneity, but just the fact of like, ‘You’re indigenous and you grew up on the land and we connect just in that way.’”

Powwow performers dance to the beat of the drum and chant for more than two hours to honor their ancestors at Delores Duffie Recreation Center in East Austin, Texas, on April 21, 2024. (Julia Mahavier/Reporting Texas TV)

The grass of Delores Duffie Recreation Center became painted with color from regalia and picnic blankets laid down by attendees.

The sounds of chanting and drums filled the air, as people danced in a wide circle for over two hours.

For Murguia Vazquez, those two hours were for prayer.

He said he honors his ancestors this way and all the “phenomenons they saw and recorded,” like sun and sky, and “our siblings that we call animals.”

Dancing continued in an indoor gym just a short distance away. The announcer called out different categories which included traditional, shawl and jingle.

Price-Smith waited until she heard “jingle” to take the floor.

“I dance jingle dress which is a healing dance…My mom, she has a rule you have to make your own stuff. You can’t buy it, she said

Price-Smith explained the process.

“I made this dress for today and since this is our powwow I wanted a brand new dress for fresh prayers basically,” she said.

“I spent days working on it and to put the bells on, I had me, my boyfriend, his sister, my sister, we all had pliers.”

Organizers said despite S.B. 17 “rocking them pretty hard,” the powwow showed the community will take care of them.