The 53rd Annual Kyiyo Pow Wow Celebration returned to the University of Montana campus on April 22-23 after the event took a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The celebration honored the life and advocacy work of Blackfeet Chief Earl Old Person, a nationally renowned Indigenous leader who died last year. Old Person was named honorary master of ceremonies for the powwow.

The powwow was organized by students and faculty advisors from the Kyiyo Native American Student Association and was held in the Adams Center. The event kicked off with the Grand Entry, where enrolled representatives of each tribal nation in Montana carried their respective flags to the center floor. 

Competitions and displays of traditional dancing and drumming dominated the event. The theme of the celebration was “Every Child Matters.” Its goal was to bring awareness to the history of Native American boarding schools and the intergenerational trauma that still lingers for Indigenous people today. 

Lynell Shepherd, a student at UM, has been named Miss Kyiyo for the last three years. She said she was happy for herself, her friends and her family to experience the event in person again.

“It’s nice to have everybody come together and dancing. You don’t even have to be a dancer or a singer. You could just come and watch,” Shepherd said. “I missed all the love and comfort it brought with everyone being together.”

Following Old Person’s death, UM established an endowment in his name to provide funds for future Kyiyo Pow Wows. While the endowment grows with donations from private donors, the Kyiyo student group still relies on fundraising efforts and other contributions to fund the celebration.

-Tye Brown