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Montana State University hosts 48th annual Powwow this weekend: Here are the brains behind the operation

"Our culture and everything that we practice is still very much alive”
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Posted at 4:59 PM, Mar 28, 2024

BOZEMAN — This Friday and Saturday, Montana State is hosting the 48th Annual American Indian Council Powwow at the Brick Breeden.

Putting on one of the most popular powwows in Montana takes a lot of preparation and planning - Today we’re taking a deeper look into what goes into setting up this celebration.

Montana State University hosts 48th annual Powwow this weekend: Here are the brains behind the operation

“We used to get together and have our own little powwows, but it was just us,” says Wayne Stein, an elder-in-residence at Montana State University. He graduated in 1973 before the University held the annual Powwows. He told MTN News, in the 70’s there were very few American Indian students, so they would hold their own powwows in the S.O.B Barn on campus.

“The first official powwow was in 1976 and I came to that. I was already graduated but I was working close by so I came to the powwow” says Wayne.

Wayne has attended around 35 of the 48 annual MSU Powwows. He said they’ve changed over the last half-century.

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“Well size number one, I mean the first one in 1976 they probably had 3 or 4 drums, and probably 100 dancers maybe,” Wayne says.

Today, the powwows have about 26 drums and over 500 dancers, and as for attendance?

“I’d say probably north of 1,000 at least,” says Alexander Michaels, co-president of the American Indian Council.

“Oh for sure over a thousand,” agrees another co-president of the American Indian Council, Riley Werk.

A group of 8 students make up the American Indian Council or AIC. They spend the entire year prepping for this celebration. MTN News spoke with the current Co-Presidents of AIC to see what they’ve been doing to raise money.

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“Our fry bread sale down on Main Street. That was probably an all-day thing. That raised a lot of money. And we're raising money year-round for this. And it's not just for this powwow, but the next powwow, and the next one,” says Alexander.

The AIC puts in hours of work for this community event, which is free to anyone.

“Our arms are always open. We’re always wanting to teach and educate people who aren't maybe knowledgeable about everything we do, or who we are, and that we’re still here. Our culture and everything that we practice is still very much alive,” says Riley.

Elder-in-residence Wayne is proud to see these young minds taking on such a heavy workload, to carry on these important cultural celebrations.

“That’s pretty stressful for young people who have never done it before. I’m always amazed they get it done. And it looks really organized when you’re over there. I'm thinking ‘Man how did they do that?’” says Wayne.

This year's AIC Powwow takes place Friday, March 29th at 6 pm, and Saturday, March 30th at 12 pm and 6 pm in the Brick Breeden Field House.