Mother’s Day Powwow honors native culture and communities

Tribal members at the powwow

The 51st annual Mother's Day Powwow will bring traditional dances, competitions, ceremonies and a salmon bake to the University of Oregon from May 10-12.

The powwow is meant to honor indigenous educators, mothers, graduating seniors and the winner of the first-ever Miss Indian UO pageant. Jessica Douglas and Allyson Alvarado are two of the students organizing the event through the UO’s Native American Student Union.

“It’s important for our community to recognize the work people are doing here at the UO and to recognize our mothers and our relationships,” Douglas said.

Friday’s festivities will include a dance dedicated to native educators at the UO and across the state. On Saturday, Miss Indian UO will be crowned and graduating seniors of Native American descent will be honored with blankets from a native-owned, native-run company called Eighth Generation.

“Blankets are a gift you give and an honor in the Native American community,” Alvarado said.

She said the dance competitions include fancy dancing, jingle dancing and traditional dancing and are broken up into different age groups: elders, adults, teenagers and younger children. Judges will decide the winners, who will each receive a cash prize.

“It’s open to the public and everyone’s encouraged to come,” Douglas said.

Participants can register to dance when they arrive at the powwow, which will also feature a raffle and a variety of vendors.

The powwow will take place at McArthur Court with three grand entries: 6 p.m. May 10 and noon and 7 p.m. on May 11. The weekend-long celebration will end with a salmon bake at noon May 12 at the Many Nations Longhouse.

Katie Staton, the longhouse steward, said powwows are celebratory gatherings with long traditions in tribal communities and at the UO.

“University of Oregon’s Mother’s Day Powwow enriches our students, faculty members and staff members, families, alumni, and community,” Staton said, adding that many participants travel to attend each year.

According to the organizers, the powwow is the biggest event put on by a student group at the UO, with more than $30,000 going to fund it. The powwow is one of the longest-running events on campus.

In 2018, Oregon State Parks named University of Oregon’s Mother’s Day Powwow as an Oregon Heritage Tradition, making UO the first university to host an event with this designation. 

For more information, visit the event Facebook page.