Good weather, tradition draws crowd to 26th annual Fort Omaha Campus Intertribal Powwow


The parade grounds at Metropolitan Community College’s Fort Omaha Campus were filled with brightly colored traditional garb, teepees, food trucks and onlookers ready to celebrate Native American culture and history.

The College was the site of the 26th annual Fort Omaha Campus Intertribal Powwow on Saturday afternoon. The parade grounds are the same location Ponca Chief Standing Bear awaited trial in the 1800s, offering a historical backdrop to the event.

The event, always held at MCC, has grown over the years, said Barbara Velazquez, coordinator of International Education. Velazquez has been in charge of the powwow since its inception.

“It was 1992 and it was the end of the College’s yearlong celebration of its big quincentennial,” Velazquez said. “The president of the College at the time wanted to do more productive work on cultural differences.”

When Velazquez and her team began, the event had roughly 100 people in attendance, she said. Since then, the number of volunteers, dancers, vendors and visitors has grown by leaps and bounds.

“It was through tremendous support of Native American leaders,” Velazquez said. “They taught us how to do this.”

Visitors to MCC had the opportunity to watch traditional dances from different Native American tribes, shop at various vendors, eat food from food trucks and tents, complete arts and crafts, and see what the inside of a teepee looked like. The Powwow also featured children’s activities.

Powwow emcee Chris Grizlik, a member of the Winnebago tribe, said the crowd this year seemed better than ever.

“I remember this Powwow from day one,” he said. “This might be the most people I’ve ever seen at it.”

The event draws Native peoples from across the region to MCC to show, honor and learn more about their respective heritages. The inclusivity is appreciated by tribes from all over, Grizlik said.

“It’s big,” he said. “It’s one of the major celebrations here in Omaha. They always try to include all the tribes in Nebraska.”

The 26th annual Fort Omaha Intertribal Powwow was made possible with the support of the Nebraska Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts. The event was funded in part by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners’ Visitors Improvement Fund.