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Native American Heritage Series, Natives at Brown host annual Spring Thaw Powwow

19th annual event features dance, creations by Native artists, performers

<p>This year’s event featured Sparrow Plainbull as Head Woman and Eric Plainbull as Head Man, according to posters advertising the event.</p>

This year’s event featured Sparrow Plainbull as Head Woman and Eric Plainbull as Head Man, according to posters advertising the event.

The Native American Heritage Series at the Brown Center for Students of Color and Natives at Brown hosted the 19th annual Spring Thaw Powwow at the Pizzitola Sports Center Saturday.

The event included dance performances, food and booths selling jewelry, clothing and other handmade goods. This year’s Spring Thaw Powwow was organized by BCSC Native American Heritage Series programmers Ashlyn Lovato ’23 and Raelee Fourkiller ’22.

Fourkiller wrote in an email to The Herald that the event is a space where Brown students can support Native students and artists and learn about their experiences. “Native students on campus are always in this delicate and precisely configured situation,” they wrote. “We're hyper-invisible — meaning, people know we're here, but what do we actually do and how do we feel?”

Planning for the event began months beforehand, according to the organizers. 

“We started reaching out to our Head Staff and vendors months prior,” Lovato and Fourkiller wrote in an email to The Herald. “The entire planning process for powwow took around seven months.”

While finding businesses to join the event, the team “reached out to friends and community members who are local, or have local contacts,” they wrote. Lovato and Fourkiller explained that because neither are local to Providence, “we lean heavily (and graciously) on our contacts from this area.” At the same time, the team brought back the “emcee, arena director and sound man” from previous years “to show gratitude” and honor them. 

Business owners at the event included Belinda Miliano, a contemporary Passamaquoddy artist who creates jewelry and other beaded creations. “This is my first time (at Spring Thaw Powwow) and it is quite an honor,” Miliano said. “I really appreciate it.” 

Sun over the water, another artist at the event, attended Spring Thaw Powwow for the second time this year. They noted the importance of the creations to their identity, explaining that their art “is something that’s within me.”  

Spring Thaw Powwow was “the first one in two years” because of COVID-19 restrictions, the two program organizers wrote. According to Fourkiller, the event “was much the same, location and attendance wise” when held during their first year at Brown in 2018. 

Most years, Spring Thaw Powwow is run by approximately 12 volunteers, but this year, approximately 40 students joined the volunteer team, according to Lovato and Fourkiller. “It was amazing to see how many people showed up to support and help with the event, which really takes the load off of our Natives at Brown community,” they wrote. 

“Powwow is a time and place when people on campus can actually show up for our community,” they continued. “It’s a place where you can really learn from Natives, where you can support Native artists and you can maybe stop feeling like we’re unapproachable, or like you have to say ‘you’re a settler on occupied land’ and just volunteer so that we can vibe and rest comfortably.”



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