American Indian powwow honors native scholars

Betsy Graca

The St. Paul Student Center was transformed into a traditional American Indian celebration this weekend.

Less than 1 percent of the University population is made up of American Indians, yet more than 500 people attended a

powwow to celebrate the Ethel Curry scholars on Saturday night.

Both native and non-native students, community members and performers enjoyed a feast, music and dancing at the event.

This year, eight students were awarded the Ethel Curry American Indian Scholarship initiated in 1995 by 1914 alumna Ethel Curry. Upon her death, Curry donated $1 million to the University for scholarships to American Indian students.

The event, organized by the American Indian Student Cultural Center, gave native students a chance to participate in a traditional dance and allowed spectators to experience some American Indian culture.

Nicholas Kraus, aerospace engineering junior and event attendee, said he is taking a class on American Indians in Minnesota and wanted to see the culture firsthand.

“I think everyone should have a chance to learn about the people who originated here,” he said.

Jonathon Brady, member of the Indian Education Program through St. Paul schools performed at the powwow.

He said a lot of people forget their American Indian heritage and it’s important to continue their traditions and their languages.

Marisa Carr, co-chairwoman of the AISCC, said it’s important for American Indian students to have a community on a campus where there are so few American Indian students.

“One of the things the AISCC tries to do is to help students be connected to things (on campus) that they were connected to back home,” she said.

Jillian Rowan, chairwoman of the Ethel Curry Scholarships, said historically, American Indian students are the most difficult to recruit to colleges and are less likely to graduate.

The lack of financial help is one of the main issues hindering American Indian students’ enrollment at the University, she said.

The local American Indian community has played a large role in the local media lately due to another large financial gift given to the University.

The Mdewakanton Sioux Community of Shakopee, Minn., recently donated $12.5 million to the University. Of the $12.5 million, $10 million will go toward the stadium and $2.5 million – with a matching endowment fund – will go toward scholarships.

Rowan said she hoped the donation will attract more American Indian students to the University.

The scholarship assistance will hopefully improve retention rates and four-year graduation rates, she said.

Katie Carlson, scholarship recipient and performer at the powwow, said more of the money should have gone toward education.

“I think the scholarship part of it was good, but I think that Shakopee was just trying to get their name out there,” she said. “They should be giving us more money for education than for the lobby rights to our big old stadium that technically we don’t need.”