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New Mexico State University

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NMSU will hold third annual Rio Grande Pow Wow

New Mexico State University's American Indian Program in conjunction with Indigenous Nations for Community Action (INCA), a local social group, will hold the third annual Rio Grande Pow Wow Oct. 12 and 13 at the practice football field, which will include Gourd Dances by the Mescalero Gourd Society, drum and dance competitions, a grand entry in which everyone lines up behind the flags and a groundbreaking for the Native American Cultural Center that will be built on campus.

The Pow Wow is sponsored by INCA and the City of Las Cruces with the goal of the event is "to make people aware there are Native Americans in southern New Mexico," said Connie Rickenbaker, an instructor for NMSU's Center for Academic Success who volunteers with INCA.

Don Pepion, an associate professor of Native American studies and INCA volunteer, said native dancers from all over the U.S. will participate in the dances at the Pow Wow. The Pow Wow dances will be divided into many different categories of traditional dances and age groups.

"The Pow Wow will bring natives from many different places, but also from the local community," Pepion said. "It will be an opportunity for us to interact with other Native Americans and celebrate our culture together."

The Pow Wow will start with the groundbreaking ceremony for the Native American Cultural Center at 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, at the outside stage on the east side of Corbett Center Student Union. The cultural center will be built to house NMSU's American Indian Program and to educate people about the culture of Native Americans.

The Pow Wow will be held on the practice football field and will be divided into three sessions. Each session will start with performances by Gourd Dancers. Pepion said Gourd Dances are traditional dances that were performed by the warriors of the tribes. Today, most Gourd Dancers are American Indian veterans, and the Pow Wow will honor them by having them start each session.

The first session will begin with the Gourd Dancers at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, and the Pow Wow will begin at 6 p.m. On Saturday, Oct. 13, the Gourd Dancers will perform at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. and the Pow Wow sessions will be at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. At the end of the third Pow Wow session, the judges will announce the winners of the dance contests, who will receive gifts and prizes.

Arts and crafts as well as food booths will be open to all throughout the Pow Wow sessions.
INCA, a social organization that works with Native Americans in the community, held the first Rio Grande Pow Wow two years ago at Fort Selden. For the second, NMSU President Michael Martin invited INCA to hold the Pow Wow on campus to help represent Native Americans at NMSU.

"The Pow Wow is important to the students because they can feel isolated from their culture while attending college," Pepion said. "This will bring them something they can relate to and a chance to interact with other Native Americans."

For more information on the Rio Grande Pow Wow, contact John Yazzie, a coordinator for the Pow Wow, at (505) 522-0515 or the NMSU American Indian Program at (505) 646-4207.