2019 University of Kansas Powwow and Indigenous Cultures Festival features Indigenous artists’ work

The annual University of Kansas Powwow and Indigenous Cultures Festival encompasses several events in March, culminating with a full day of activities at the Powwow April 6.(Photo: John Clayton, University of Kansas)

Festival events include a screening of Sterlin Harjo's film 'MEKKO' and a ticketed concert with hip-hop artist Nataanii Means

News Release

Lied Center of Kansas

This year, the annual University of Kansas Powwow and Indigenous Cultures Festival will encompass several events in the month of March, culminating with a full day of activities at the Powwow, which is being held at the Lied Center of Kansas on April 6. The 2019 University of Kansas Powwow and Indigenous Cultures Festival is presented by the University of Kansas First Nations Student Association (FNSA), Lied Center, KU Office of Multicultural Affairs, Native Faculty and Staff Council, University of Kansas Indigenous Studies Program, Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas Film and Media Studies, and Jancita Warrington (cultural consultant). All of the festival events, as well as the Powwow, are intertwined with the launch of a grant-funded project, the Indigenous Arts Initiative, at the University of Kansas.

As a partnership between University of Kansas (Spencer Museum of Art, Film and Media Studies, and the Lied Center) and the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, the Indigenous Arts Initiative supports a rotating series of Indigenous art labs that provide emerging Indigenous artists opportunities to expand their professional networks, hone creative skills and gain leadership experience through collaborative, mentorship-based programming at the University of Kansas. Through an application process, two emerging artists were selected, Sydney Pursel and Robert Hicks, to work alongside National Endowment for the Arts-funded 2019 visiting artists Sterlin Harjo (filmmaker) and Steven Grounds (visual artist) in a two-week residency at the end of March through the beginning of April.

During the University of Kansas Indigenous Cultures Festival, the public is invited to view works of the visiting and emerging artists as well as attend discussions and lectures in March at several events that are open to the public. Some of these events include a public showing of Harjo’s film MEKKO with a Q&A at the Lawrence Arts Center on March 27 and an exhibit featuring works and a live painting by Grounds and other Indigenous artists at the Cider Gallery on March 29. 

KUPowwow2_photo credit John Clayton
The First Nations Student Association Tipi unveiling takes place 11 a.m. April 6 at the Lied Center of Kansas.(Photo: John Clayton, University of Kansas)

Another special aspect of the University of Kansas Powwow and Indigenous Cultures Festival this year is the construction of a grass dwelling that will be built outside of the Lied Center. The lead builder on the project is Gerald Miller, Wichita Tribe Elder. Miller learned grass-house building from his aunt and uncle, and his family has built grass houses previously in Indian City. 

The dwelling at the Lied Center will be made of local grasses, such as switch grass and blue stem grass, as well as materials from cedar, juniper and willow trees. The dwelling will be constructed in the days leading up to the Powwow, and it will be on display for the public at the Powwow on April 6. Volunteers from University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University and local Boy Scouts are helping with the construction of the grass house. 

Anyone interested in volunteering with the build within the timeframe of March 28 through April 2 can contact Lied Center Engagement/Education Director Anthea Scouffas for more information (anthea@ku.edu).

KUPowwow4_photo credit Derek Kwan
University of Kansas First Nations Student Association Powwow events begin April 6.(Photo: Derek Kwan, University of Kansas)

The festival events in March and the University of Kansas Powwow and Indigenous Cultures Festival on April 6 are free and open the public. The events on April 6 begin at 11 a.m. and will feature the Powwow Grand Entry, competitive dancing, educational workshops and sessions, Indigenous art and films, and children’s programs focused on indigenous cultures and history. Regional Indigenous artists and craftspeople will have items for sale, and Indigenous food will be available for purchase throughout the day. The Grand Entry times are 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on the day of the Powwow.

This year represents the 31st year of the University of Kansas  Powwow. In recent years, the First Nations Student Association and the Lied Center established a partnership with a vision to foster the growth of the University of Kansas Powwow into the University of Kansas Powwow and Indigenous Cultures Festival, focusing on educational opportunities and celebrating North American Indigenous cultures. This collaboration has allowed the First Nations Student Association to have a home for its annual Powwow at the Lied Center, resulting in increased community attendance, expanded educational activities, and additional support for Indigenous food and craft vendors. More than 10,000 local and regional attendees have taken part in the Powwow and festival experiences since the first collaboration in April 2016. “From the perspective of an Indigenous person, this event has made University of Kansas a better place. Indigenous people and cultures are somewhat invisible, but this event helps make us visible,” Melissa Peterson, University of Kansas TRIO SES & STEM Academic Coordinator and advisor for First Nations Student Association, explained.

Additionally, the Lied Center of Kansas will host a ticketed concert on Friday, April 5 at 7:30 p.m. with Nataanii Means, Oglala Lakota/Omaha/Navajo hip-hop artist and son of prominent American Indian activist Russell Means. This concert is in association with the University of Kansas Powwow and Indigenous Cultures Festival. Tickets for the concert can be purchased at or by visiting or calling the Lied Center Ticket Office.

KUPowwow3_photo credit John Clayton
Grand Entry is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. & 6:00 p.m. April 6.(Photo: John Clayton, University of Kansas)

2019 University of Kansas Powwow & Indigenous Cultures Festival

List of events

All events are free and open to the public, with the exception of one ticketed event on April 5, as noted below.

March 26 - Indigenous Aesthetics in Visual + Performing Art with Sterlin Harjo & Steven Grounds

  • 5:00 p.m.–6:30 p.m., Lied Center of Kansas Seymour Gallery

March 27 - MEKKO showing & Q&A with filmmaker, Sterlin Harjo

  • 7:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m., Lawrence Arts Center

March 28 - Indigenous Community Building through the Arts with Steven Grounds, Sterlin Harjo, Sydney Pursel, & Peter Jasso of the Kansas Creative Arts Commission

  • 5:30 p.m.–7:00 p.m., Spencer Museum of Art

March 29 - Cider Gallery Opening and Live-painting with Steven Grounds & other artists

  • 5:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m., Cider Gallery

March 31 - Steven Grounds Artist Talk

  • 4:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m., Cider Gallery

March 31 - Artists Reception for Indigenous Artists: Steven Grounds, Sterlin Harjo, Sydney Pursel, & Robert Hicks

  • 5:00 p.m.–6:30 p.m., Cider Gallery

April 5 - Nataanii Means, indigenous hip-hop artist (ticketed concert)

  • 7:30 p.m., Lied Center of Kansas

April 6 - University of Kansas First Nations Student Association Powwow & Indigenous Cultures Festival, Lied Center of Kansas

  • 11:00 a.m. – First Nations Student Association Tipi unveiling
  • 11:30 a.m. – Mural unveiling
  • Noon & 5:00 p.m. – Powwow 101 sessions
  • Noon–5:00 p.m. – Children’s activities
  • 1:00 p.m. & 6:00 p.m. – Grand Entry
  • 1:30 p.m.–4:00 p.m. – Educational seminars
  • 4:00 p.m. – “Identity by Design” inspired by Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
  • 7:00 p.m. – Indigenous film festival

Food and arts & craft vendors will be available.

Visit the University of Kansas Indigenous Cultures Festival Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/KUIndigenousFestival/ for more information.

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