Some of the best Native American dancers and drum groups in North America will gather at the University of Montana on Friday and Saturday, April 20-21, for the 50th Annual Kyiyo Celebration in the UM Adams Center.
Hosted by the Kyiyo Native American Student Association, the event is one of the oldest student-run powwows in the country and allows the Native American community to share its culture with the UM campus, Missoula and beyond through traditional dance and song. The theme this year is “Honoring Our Past, Inspiring Our Future.”
The first Grand Entry event will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, April 20. Saturday Grand Entry times are at noon and 7 p.m.
Longtime Honorary Master of Ceremonies Chief Earl Old Person will lead the celebration, along with other community members. Midnite Express Singers from Minnesota are this year’s host drum. Outgoing Royalty for the 2018 Kyiyo are Hokian Win McCloud, Miss Kyiyo; Rhiannon EagleSpeaker, Junior Miss Kyiyo; and Nihani Siis Stiffarm, Lil’ Miss Kyiyo.
General admission passes cost $5, and weekend passes are $12. One session will be offered Friday, and two sessions will be offered Saturday. Seniors age 65 and older and children age 6 and younger are admitted free. Dancer registration costs $5, and drum registration for 10 passes costs $50. Tickets and passes can be purchased at the door, online at http://www.griztix.com, at all GrizTix locations or by calling 406-243-4051.
“This year’s club has been working nonstop to bring together a celebration worthy of this remarkable anniversary,” said Danielle Vazquez, president of the Kyiyo Native American Student Association. “The club will be hosting the return of the handgame and basketball tournaments, and UM’s Native American Studies department has planned the return of the youth conference.”
The Kyiyo Native American Student Association at UM predates 1960, and was formally recognized as an official UM club during the 1968-69 school year. The name Kyiyo (kiááyo), means “bear” in Blackfoot and was chosen because of its ease in pronunciation and its reference to UM’s grizzly bear mascot. The formation of the club began in 1968 when a number of Native and non-native students began meeting. Founding Kyiyo student organization members were Lorraine Edmo, Rodney Miller, Kenneth Ryan, Lloyd Coon, Harold Gray, Chris Roberts and Rex Swoboda.
The current student club members recognize they would not be where they are today without those first intrepid students, and are proud to serve as a link between the Native American community and UM. Club members believe Native culture and history in Montana are important parts of the state’s identity and ones that should continue to be celebrated by future generations.
Striving to follow in the footsteps of activism and advocacy that the first club walked, the 2017-18 club has championed many Native issues in the UM and Missoula communities. The celebration will include the family team dance and an art exhibit to honor Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, plus a hand drum contest in memory of those lost to suicide.
The Kyiyo Native American Student Association plays an integral role in promoting the cultural traditions and customs of all Native Americans. Through extracurricular activities offered throughout the year, Kyiyo engages UM employees and students in the cultural identities of Native Americans to support cultural diversity. Kyiyo is open to all Native American and non-native students, as well as any community members. The club is a chartered member of the Associated Students of UM.
Cost of hosting the powwow have risen substantially in recent years. To counteract these costs, the club actively fundraises year-round. Top fundraisers include Indian taco sales and Kyiyo’s own line of “Native Griz” athletic apparel.