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Powwow honors Keeper

To some people, having four American Indian powwows a year in Wichita might seem like a lot.

To Susan Seals and other representatives of Wichita's native community, however, it's not. Seals would like to see at least six powwows a year — the number that the founders of the Mid-America All-Indian Center had in mind when they drafted its bylaws.

"The whole idea when the Indian Center was built was to allow the native people to use it, to preserve our identity and culture in this community," she said. "That building is more than just a building."

She points to Oklahoma as a model, saying that the state supports and encourages as many American Indian powwows and activities as possible. "This is just commonplace in Oklahoma," she said, "because the state wants that identity promoted."

Seals is quick to note that all four powwows in Wichita are held at the Indian Center, but they are sponsored by three separate organizations.

The two-day powwow this weekend will be hosted by Friends of the Keeper of the Plains statue, the 44-foot-tall sculpture of an Indian warrior raising his hands skyward at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers. It was created by Wichita artist Blackbear Bosin, who was Seals' uncle.

The Friends of the Keeper sponsor a powwow every May to mark the anniversary of the statue, which was dedicated in 1974.

In July, the Indian Center has its own powwow, and in September, the Intertribal Warrior Society has a powwow that is viewed as a fundraiser for a larger powwow in November to honor veterans.

Seals, a Kiowa-Comanche who is a descendant of Chief White Bear, says she thinks more powwows would be possible if Wichita's American Indian community wasn't dwindling as much as it is.

She is a member of a troupe of White Bear descendants who will dance this weekend at the powwow. The women will be identified by the red shawls they wear with emblems of a drum, bugle and arrow on them.

Typically, powwows feature gourd dancing in the afternoon and specialty dances in the evening, but this weekend organizers intend to mix it up by having more specialty dances in the afternoon portion, Seals said.

There will be categories for children, as well as by type — such as the snake dance, buffalo dance, two-step (the only dance in which men and women hold hands) and the potato dance.

Visitors can shop at vendor booths featuring American Indian arts and crafts, and buy Indian tacos as well as other concessions.

Dancing sessions will take place Saturday afternoon, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. The powwow is free and open to the public.

As a fundraiser, Friends of the Keeper have invited two celebrities — Chaske Spencer, who plays Wolf Pack leader Sam Ulee in the popular "Twilight" movies, and soap opera star Tyler Christopher — to appear before the powwow. Both will sign autographs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, for $20 a person, at the Indian Center.

If you go

friends of the keeper powwow

What: Dancing, food, arts and crafts

Where: Mid-America All-Indian Center, 650 N. Seneca

When: 1 to 10 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday

How much: Free.

For more information, call 316-350-3340 or go to www.theindiancenter.org

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