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Powwow honors seniors, celebrates Native American traditions

Farmington School District's American Indian Education Liaison Numen Smith (top) invites all to attend the upcoming first-annual South Metro Powwow. Farmington High School seniors Dante Buck (left) and his twin brother Dayton Buck will be honored alongside other Native American south metro seniors. Photo by Kara Hildreth

Numen Smith welcomes all to celebrate the beautiful Native American traditions at the first annual South of the River Powwow.

If you attend, Smith will surely show his gratitude by saying "miigwech." That means "thank you" in Ojibwe, his native tribal language.

Smith, 32, the American Indian education liaison for Farmington Area Public Schools, is proud to be the event organizer. He looks forward to welcoming hundreds to this community party that is slated as an all-day celebration event from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 20, inside Burnsville High School.

"A powwow is an American Indian event where people meet to dance, sing and honor the American Indian culture. This is an opportunity to step out with the whole family, meet your neighbors and experience a different culture firsthand," Smith said.

"I encourage the non-Native community to go out and dance because it is fun and a way to connect with our neighbors, especially in the times we are living in and what is going on in the news with all the nonsense," he added. "It is nice to bring our communities together and celebrate life and our next generations."

His father, Frank Smith, will be one of the head dancers at the powwow.

"A powwow can be a moving, powerful, exciting, fast-paced, colorful and most times a loud event where guests can experience American Indian dancing and drumming," he said.

The bright traditional colors of the dancers' regalia, drum beats and music will be enchanting, he promises.

"It will mesmerize you with the drum and sounds will race through your body and give you goosebumps," Smith said.

He added: "The food will warm your soul and you will leave with an experience like you have never had before."

During the intertribal dance, Smith said all guests will be welcome to get up and dance together.

Two Farmington High seniors and twin brothers will be honored at the event, along with other seniors who attend schools in the south metro.

Twin brothers Dante and Dayton Buck, 18, will be honored. Last year the brothers moved to Farmington from Red Wing where they grew up. The Buck brothers' family is part of the Prairie Island Indian Community.

During the powwow, a special tribal dance will honor senior students with song and dance.

"This will be a time for friends and family to congratulate them and the seniors will dance for the whole length of the song," Smith said.

The brothers look to the future while working to maintain their cultural values.

"I am going to hold on to my Native American roots no matter where I go in my life because we have a very strong family and community," said Dante Buck, who plans to study engineering at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

Dayton Buck is looking forward to college and will travel off to the same university as his twin brother. He plans to pursue computer information systems as a career.

Both brothers talk how their maternal great-grandmother influenced their lives with her strength and love. Their grandmother died in 2011.

"I learned how to be kind — she was always giving us gifts so we would give her kisses," Dante said, quietly laughing. His grandmother was always looking for more kisses from her grandchildren, the brothers said as they shared a memory.

The brothers shared how they look forward to the future while holding tight to their native ancestral heritage.

"I just want other people to know about our heritage and how we are actually — and we are not or what has been said to be in history that said we were savages or uncivilized," said Dayton Buck.

Both brothers invite all, especially young people, to attend the powwow for the fun, soulful experiences that will surely offer many ways to connect and understand about their cultural heritage.

Dante Buck said their values center around time with family.

"We do not find pride in materialist things, but we find it more by being with our family and other people, and we believe that is better than having materialistic things," he said.

"This is exactly one of the main reasons I wanted to educate others about our Native community because we are still here and not an invisible culture that has disappeared in history books, but we are growing and thriving," Smith said.

As the district liaison for a year and a half, Smith works with 40 students from across Farmington schools to plan cultural events and field trips.

Helping out with marketing, Farmington High School junior and graphic artist Sam Seyfert designed the event poster. The art depicts a modern image of a crane bird created with bright hues of blue, green and yellow against a dramatic black backdrop.

"It was a good experience and I like helping out people in the community," Seyfert said. He has enjoyed collaborating to help out with a few student and community projects.

Smith hopes Farmington High can be the venue host site for the second annual powwow celebration.

Jay Haugen, district superintendent, also invited the public to the event.

"If you have not been to a powwow, it is a fantastic experience because it is loud, colorful and the food is fantastic," Haugen said.

"There are a lot of things to be experienced at a powwow, but at this particular one we will honor our graduating seniors," he added.

Smith makes a home in Farmington with his wife and children.

"I love to get out and experience other cultures, but at times I forget how beautiful my own is, but this event will be a wonderful reminder and testament to that beauty," he said.

If you go:

What: South of the River Powwow — A day of dance, food and culture through a Native American perspective. A powwow is a traditional, American Indian dancing and drumming celebration where stories, traditions and generations will be shared. Crafts vendors, food trucks, a raffle and silent auction will be offered.

Who: The public is welcome to attend this free cultural event sponsored by south metro school districts, the Prairie Island Indian Community and Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

When: The all-day powwow runs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 20. The first Grand Entry entertainment is at 1 p.m. with a feast at 5 p.m. The second Grand Entry event starts at 7 p.m.

Where: Burnsville High School, 600 E. Hwy. 13, Burnsville, MN.

"If you have never been to a powwow or haven't been in many years, I encourage you to come out with friends and family to experience an event you will never forget," said Numen Smith, American Indian Education liaison with Farmington Public Schools. "Please come as a spectator and leave as a good friend."