By Alan Sorensen
The MSU-Northern Sweetgrass Society, among the most active organizations in Havre, is going after the big pumpkin again its annual MSU-Northern Powwow.
The powwow, scheduled for April 7 and 8 at MSU-Northern gymnasium, is a major undertaking for the university's multicultural club. Last year's powwow attracted more than 1,500 people, including about 250 dancers and nine drum groups.
"This year, it's going to cost $16,650 to put on," Sweetgrass President Elaine Healy-Berger said. "That's low."
Healy-Berger, a Havre resident, said that the Sweetgrass members have to raise all of that money themselves. "Only about $2,000 will go to expenses like posters and concessions," she said. "Everything else goes to the speakers, head dancers, competitors."
Grand entries will be at 7 p.m. Friday, April 7, and noon and 6 p.m. Saturday. Healy-Berger said she hopes the powwow will be over late Saturday night.
Competitions scheduled for this year are traditional, fancy and grass dance for the men, teen boys and junior boys. The women, teen girls and junior girls will compete in traditional, fancy and jingle dress dances.
"We always have the Tiny Tot," Healy-Berger said, "whenever the arena announcer wants them to dance, and we pay them each time."
Healy-Berger said about 55 tiny tots danced last year. They were called onto the floor three times during the powwow and were paid $3 twice and $5 once.
"And we have Golden Age, too, but we usually just pay golden age $25 regardless of how many there are," she said.
Competitors come from throughout the United States and Canada.
"They come from everywhere," Healy-Berger said. "We send out posters to Arizona, New Mexico, California. And then if students are going to school here and have friends somewhere else, they may come.
"And remember, people who come to the powwow usually do business at the places who sponsor the powwow."
Sweetgrass advisor Faye Red Fox, multicultural coordinator at Northern, agreed that
the entire community benefits from the Northern powwow. "Powwow brings a lot of business and money into the community," she said.
Performers from the Southwest Kwapa Bird Singers and Dancers are scheduled to make special appearance at this powwow.
They are from Arizona and will exhibition, Healy-Berger said.
But in order for the powwow to proceed and be successful, club members must come up with the $16,650 cost of putting it on. That's an especially tall order for students trying to hit the books, attend class and make the grade.
"It's really hard for students to raise that money because a lot of them have jobs and a lot of them have families and it's really hard for them to get together," Red Fox said.
"We've been doing Indian taco sales, bake sales, raffles and then we get together with some of the reservations to see if they can help us," Healy-Berger said. "Most of them are very good about helping us. And then there are other organizations here at the college that help us."
Among its fund-raisers are raffles, Indian taco sales, donations, sponsorships, $1 votes, and may come out with a program complete with advertisements.
"Last year, we did a program," Healy-Berger said. "We couldn't find anyone to sponsor it, so we just put it together and sold it for $1 a copy."
Raffle items this year include an original Vernon TheBoy painting on stone mounted on
an antler stand donated by Leon and Arlene Cochran valued at $500. Other popular raffle items include a star quilt, Pendleton, clock, and beaded belt buckle.
"We've sent out donation letters to everybody letting them know that we'll be coming around," Healy-Berger said, "and we'll send out a follow-up letter."
The popular $1 per vote for Miss Indian MSU-Northern Powwow fund-raiser is being expanded this year to include Baby MSU-Northern Powwow. The baby contestants will join others who will vie for Little Miss Indian MSU-Northern, Jr. Miss Indian MSU-Northern and Miss Indian MSU-Northern.
People can vote as often and for as many candidates as they want.
The 18 entries last year in the $1 vote competition raised $3,200. The winners, those who brought home the most dough, were Brittany Grant of Hays, Little Miss Indian MSU-Northern; Vina Healy, Fort Belknap, Junior Miss Indian MSU-Northern; and Carmen Morales, Harlem, Miss Indian MSU-Northern.
Girls entering any of the four competitions must pay a $10 entry fee and prove Native American descendency. The fee is added to their vote total.
The Indian taco feeds are held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. every couple of weeks in Cowan Hall room 308. The next one is set for Feb. 24.
"We had a problem with running out and people were still coming, so last week, we had a lot of supplies, most donated by Gary and Leo's IGA, and a lot left over," Healy-Berger. "I guess it's better to have too much instead of not enough."
As for the letters soliciting contributions for the powwow, the club usually gets a good response from Montana reservations and area residents and businesses.
"We sent them to every business in the phone book," Healy-Berger said. "Vic (Blaine County Commissioner Vic Miller) was the very first one to mail us a check."
Sweetgrass Vice President Brian Hammett and some of the club members are selling raffle tickets for a full package Remington 25-06. The drawing will be held April 8 and anyone interested is invited to call 2654-3700 ext. 3185 for more information.
The fund-raising ends except for the raffles, votes and program sales at the door when the powwow begins, Healy-Berger said.
"It's free of charge to everybody," she said. "It's just that the dancers pay a registration fee just the dancers who are in a contest."
Sweetgrass Society is open to anyone.
"We have 37 members on the list," Healy-Berger said. "Then there are some who don't sign the list but stop by when they have the time. And it's not just for Native Americans.
"Last year, we opened membership to the community, too, and we had about seven members join us from the community."
The group meets every Wednesday at noon in Cowan Hall room 308.
Healy-Berger said the society tries to place any proceeds raised by the powwow in a scholarship fund for students in the club.
For more information about the upcoming powwow and fund-raisers or to offer to help or make a donation, call the Red Fox at (406) 265-3700, ext. 3185.