For the first time, the Haehn Campus Center at the College of Saint Benedict will be the site of a Fall “Ptanyetu” Powwow on Saturday, Nov. 4.
Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s University since 2019 have helped sponsor the annual powwow, first conducted in the spring of 1994 by the St. Cloud State University American Indian Center to increase awareness and outreach around Indigenous communities.
The powwow was interrupted only by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 and, by the time it returned and after persevering seemingly annual interference from spring snowstorms, SCSU and its partners – which include Independent School District 742 and the St. Cloud Technical and Community College – decided to move the event later in the year. Ptanyetu is the Dakota word for autumn.
The 27th annual free event, which is open to the public, will include grand entries and dancing at 1 and 6 p.m., a hand drum contest at 4 p.m., giveaways at 9 p.m. and a retiring of flags at 10 p.m. Food trucks and other vendors will be on hand throughout the day. Last year’s event attracted 75 dancers and seven drum groups.
This is the first time CSB and SJU, which is on the original homeland of the Dakota and Anishinaabe peoples, have hosted a powwow and it will have added meaning because of the recent reconciliation of the schools’ monastic communities’ history in operating Native American boarding schools. The Initiative for Native Nation Relations (INNR) will staff a table at the powwow for anyone interested in learning about the schools’ history as it relates to Indigenous people.
For anyone who is curious, from 4:30-5:30 p.m. on Oct 31 SCSU professor Darlene St. Clair will be at the Multicultural Center on the CSB campus to present “Powwow 101,” which will provide a basic into to the history and culture of powwows.
The Nov. 4 powwow will be part festival and part family reunion, according to organizers.
“Hosting the powwow is a small but important step toward empowering Indigenous communities and helping everyone in the CSB and SJU communities know that Indigenous communities are alive and well and their cultures are worth celebrating,” said Ted Gordon, a visiting assistant professor of anthropology, director of the INNR and the CSB and SJU representative on the powwow committee.
Gordon, who has been central to the CSB and SJU work to support boarding school truth and healing, was honored with a blanketing ceremony at last year’s powwow, which was held at St. Cloud Technical High School.
INNR is currently involved in recording oral histories from the Saint Benedict’s Mission School at the White Earth Reservation. The work, funded by the McKnight Foundation, is a collaboration with Saint Benedict’s Monastery, the Tribal Historic Preservation Office of the White Earth Nation and the Niibi Center for the Rights of Nature.
INNR also is developing a plan to digitize 5,000 pages of Mission School records currently held at Saint Benedict’s Monastery and Saint John’s Abbey. That project is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and is part of its More Perfect Union initiative, which will commemorate the 250th anniversary of American independence in 2026.