MOUNT VERNON — Saturday afternoon’s Skagit Valley College Fall Powwow began with performers in traditional Native American dress dancing to drummers’ beats as they formed a circle in the gym.
The first dance, part of the Grand Entry ceremony, marked the beginning of the powwow, where attendees from everywhere between Canada and Idaho came to celebrate.
The powwow was an annual tradition at Skagit Valley College until about 15 years ago, said the event’s organizer, Alana Quigley. Two years ago, organizers decided to revive the celebration.
“The purpose of the powwow is for the campus to mirror what the community looks like by honoring the original people from the area,” Quigley said.
She said the event is very much a community gathering where everyone is welcome.
Attendees young and old came Saturday, some in everyday clothing, others adorned with beads and feathers. All were invited to join the dancing.
“You see faces from everywhere in the crowd,” Quigley said. “It allows us to create relationships with many communities.”
The gym was also filled with vendors selling an assortment of jewelry and traditional Native American clothing. Drum circles lined the perimeter of the dance floor.
Dennis Francis came from Saskatchewan, Canada, for the day representing the Kahkewistahaw Cree First Nation Reserve Cree First Nation Reserve.
Dressed in traditional Ojibwa clothing, Francis said the event is a celebration of life with songs and dance dating back many years. This was his first time at this powwow.
“I came to enjoy myself,” Francis said as he prepared to join the dancing.
Marlana Thompson Baker and her daughter, Hunter Cook, are part of the Mohawk Tribe. They live in Squamish, British Columbia, and attend powwows all over the country.
The 15-year-old Cook participated in the traditional dance contest, one of multiple dance contests that took place.
“It’s like walking and dancing at the same time,” she said.
Quigley said the biggest piece of the event is the community being able to spend time together.
“Everybody becomes a big family,” she said.
The powwow continues from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday.