Powwow brings students together in Billings to celebrate traditions

The high school powwow returned to Billings West High School after a two-year hiatus because of COVID.

Students came together with each other and their tribes to carry out the tradition.

The Celebrating Our Youth Powwow opened with the grand entry.

“I love grand entry,” said Maya Spencer, the Powwow princess from Skyview. “It’s like where everyone shows up. They show all your dancers where everyone comes together. Since I can’t be the princess on my own reservation, I’m honored to feel for this on my own high school.”

“I think it’s really special,” said Sicily Glenn, Powwow princess from West. “Cool to be apart of something, the school.”

The princesses get a special place upfront and the purpose of the high school powwow is the same as for bigger powwows around the state.

“There’s a really strong competitive aspect to it in the traditional sense,” said Ethan Tosee, Billings Schools Tribal council chair. “But it’s also just a gathering of people so everyone can enjoy it. Everyone can once again be immersed in the culture. I think it’s really important to do so.”

“They compete in their different categories of dancing, but it’s also to come together and celebrate just being together and all part of one nation really,” said Shaylee Fritzler, Powwow arena director.

Billings School District 2’s Indian education program opens the powwow to everyone and it brings in students from 22 tribes from Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota. The high school Powwow helps teach and carry on traditions for students of all ages.

“As urban Indians, we’re not on the reservation ourselves,” Tosee said. “So like many traditions are part of our culture and our background. And it’s important that we recognize this.”

“It’s like home, like it really makes you feel at home,” Fritzler said. “Especially since this is an off-reservation school. It’s really nice to know that you have that community around you still.”

“Past couple years, kids haven’t been to a lot,” Spencer said. “But now we have finally shown them like what we do, what our traditions are and all that.”

“I feel like our culture is, like, going away,” Glenn said. “And I just want to keep it like keep it still alive.”

“At the high school level, this is something that’s unique,” Tosee said. “Both to our state and I think pretty in general throughout the US”

The Powwow was scheduled to run from noon to 7 pm

The event is rotated among Senior, West and Skyview.

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