Southern Miss Powwow returns to its roots on the USM campus. Here's what to expect.

The Southern Miss Powwow, a free, family-oriented event that celebrates the culture and traditions of Native American peoples returns to the Hattiesburg area this Saturday, Oct. 8.

Begun almost two decades ago on the University of Southern Mississippi campus, the event in recent years has been held in Petal, but this year returns to its roots on the university campus at Spirit Park.

The powwow is expected to bring together people and tribes from throughout the nation and includes traditional Native American dances, dancing competitions, music, art and various food and vendors.

The day’s activities will begin with Gourd Dancing at 11 a.m. followed by the Feed at 1 p.m. and the Grand Entry at 2 p.m. All dancers and drums are welcome. Featured guests will include Head Lady: Raven McMillan; Head Gourd: Ron Scheuermann; Emcee: Vance Beaver; AD: Thomas Dardar; Southern Drum: Southern Pine; and Northern Drum: Medicine Tail.

Jenna Dittman, a USM graduate student in anthropology and secretary for the Golden Eagle Intertribal Society is helping to organize the event.

“Mississippi has been home to numerous Native American tribes, including Choctaws, Chickasaws, Natchez, Creeks, Houmas and others,” Dittman said. “We want to share our traditions with everyone through this festival-like event.”

Joining Dittman in coordinating the activities will be longtime powwow organizer Dr. Tammy Greer, a USM Professor of Psychology who also serves as advisor and director for the GEIS.

A member of Southeastern Louisiana’s United Houma Nation, Greer was born in New Orleans and is widely recognized for her artisanship in beading and other traditional crafts. She said the powwow serves an important function in nurturing and publicizing the traditions and culture of Native Americans.

Of special note, this year’s powwow will also honor several of its supporters and participants who have recently died, Greer said. Those include longtime emcee Harold Comby; the first recipient of the Tradition Keepers Award, Pearlie Thomas; and two of its Head Men, Ryan Bell and Matthew Santella.

“We will miss them tremendously and honor them as we gather,” Greer said.

The event’s closing song is set for 6 p.m. with participants gathering in a circle.

According to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, there were 21 known Native American tribes in Mississippi between 1500 and 1800.

Today, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is the only federally recognized American Indian tribe living within Mississippi. With more than 11,000 members, Choctaw lands cover more than 35,000 acres in 10 different counties in the state. Two other federally recognized Choctaw tribes are the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (the third largest tribe in the United States) and the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, located in Louisiana.

Vance Beaver participates in a past Southern Miss Powwow. The Powwow, a Native American cultural event of dancing and social gathering, will be held Saturday on the USM campus.
Vance Beaver participates in a past Southern Miss Powwow. The Powwow, a Native American cultural event of dancing and social gathering, will be held Saturday on the USM campus.

Organizers of the Southern Miss Powwow welcome sponsorships for the event from local businesses and organizations. For information on sponsorships, text Kaliq Sims at 769-390-2007.

Persons are also invited to contact Dittman:; or Greer:; for additional information.

Spirit Park is located at 121 W. Memorial Dr., just north of the Cochran Center and Student Union Complex on the USM campus.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Southern Miss Powwow celebrates native American culture Saturday