American Indian Heritage Month Brings Rodeo, Powwow, Lectures


Native American dancers perform this week at the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas as a kickoff to the Indian National Finals Powwow. One holds a sign opposing the planned Dakota Access Pipeline, which has sparked protests at a Sioux reservation in North Dakota.

November is National American Indian Heritage Month, and with it comes tribal rodeo to the South Point, a powwow to Cashman Center, and Native-American-focused lectures to UNLV.

The 41st annual Indian National Finals Rodeo runs through Saturday, bringing competitors and fans from around the country. This year also marks the inaugural National Finals Powwow, which celebrates dancing, drumming, and other traditions.

Both events serve as catalysts for reunions and renewal of cultural awareness, according to Frank Whitecalfe, a rodeo commissioner and an organizer of the powwow.

This week provides opportunity for “a celebration of getting the people together to converse, to tell stories, to actually go back in time and ... keep languages alive,” Whitecalfe said.

It also provides a chance for tribal members to tend to their roots.

“It’s a good way to stay connected to those people that I’ve met over the years,” said Sydney Smith, a Cherokee Nation member who moved to Las Vegas from her native Oklahoma three years ago. “Even though I haven’t seen many of them in a long time, I get to see them this week.”

UNLV has scheduled several lectures and social gatherings in connection with heritage month, with topics ranging from “Decolonizing Our Diets” to the ongoing oil pipeline dispute at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. All events are open to the public and a schedule can be found here.

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Frank Whitecalfe, Indian National Finals Rodeo commissioner and powwow organizer; Sydney Smith, Las Vegan and Cherokee Nation member; Patrick Naranjo, UNLV multicultural resource coordinator and Tewa tribal member

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