UND's 50th Time Out Wacipi celebrates culture of Indigenous people
Annual event resumes after pandemic forced cancellation in the past two years
GRAND FORKS – Kya Jo Smith, 10, sat patiently as her aunt carefully braided her hair in preparation for her turn to dance during the 50th annual Time Out Wacipi, sponsored by the UND Students Diversity and Inclusion Department, on Saturday, April 9, at UND’s Hyslop Sports Center.
As the afternoon wore on, the facility began to fill with Indigenous people in all manner of colorful regalia, including women and girls in “jingle dresses,” festooned with horizontal rows of metal cones that jingled as they walked.
Kya Jo, who has been selected as White Earth Princess, was getting ready to dance in the Fancy Shawl category. In her role, she tries “to go to as many powwows as possible,” she said. She enjoys the feeling she gets from dancing.
Among her duties as princess has been “to serve food to elders,” she said. She also aims to be “a good role model” at her elementary school in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, and likes that she is representing the White Earth Nation, Kya Jo said.
Her mother, Julie Smith Yliniemi, from the White Earth Nation, said the powwow “really connects our family to our community. It’s social; you see people you don’t get to see every day.”
She was dancing in the Women’s Jingle category at the powwow, she said, but not in competition. “It’s a healing dance; it’s an opportunity to heal yourself and your community. It’s an honor to be able to dance.”
In the competition, judges evaluate dancers “on footwork, regalia, the beat — or stopping on time, and how you present yourself,” she said. But “you don’t have to compete; you can come and enjoy dancing.”
Yliniemi, who holds a master of public health degree and a doctorate in counseling education, just joined the UND medical school, where she will teach in the new Indigenous health doctoral program and serve as director of community outreach and engagement.
She was excited to tour the school Saturday and show her children where she’ll be working, she said. “It’s good for them to see Native Americans in education.”
Another dancer, Dillian Whitefeather, 17, of Ponehmah, Minnesota, a member of the Ojibwe tribe, was waiting to dance in the Teen Grass category. He’s been dancing at powwows for three years, he said. His grandfather gave him the regalia he wore to today’s competition.
Dillian enjoys competing, he said because “it’s a pretty good workout, and you get to see other good dancers and meet new people.”
His grandfather, Lee Whitefeather, 73, from the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota, delivered the invocation in his native language from the stage as the powwow got underway.
Dressed in full tribal regalia honoring his people’s heritage, the elder Whitefeather was preparing to dance in the Grass category. He had competed in this powwow three years ago, he said. “I’ve been dancing for almost 50 years.”
Returning after two-year hiatus
The Time Out Wacipi event has emerged again, after being canceled in 2020 and 2021, due to the pandemic.
“After two years of social distancing and isolation, it’s wonderful to come together again,” said Don Warne, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion and director of the Indians Into Medicine program at the UND medical school.
“A lot of people have been looking forward to this for a long time,” said Warne, who was among the dignitaries, including UND President Andrew and Kathy Armacost and military veterans, who led the Grand Entry procession of dancers onto the main floor.
They were preceded by the “eagle staff” — traditionally the first emblem in a powwow processional — followed by the U.S. flag, and then flags representing Native American nations. Veterans also carried flags, said Keith Malaterry, event organizer.
The scene, awash with the vibrant colors of the dancers’ regalia; many wore headpieces made with intricate beadwork, an array of feathers or buffalo horns. The room resonated with the rhythmic beat of drums and Native singing.
Sixteen drum groups, including the host group, Midnite Express, participated in the event, along with more than 250 dancers, said Malaterry, who serves as American Indian success specialist in the UND Department of Student Diversity and Inclusion.
To be able to hold the Time Out Wacipi on campus again is “awesome,” said Malaterry, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. “We’re so excited, and really pleased with the turnout we have here.”
Dancers have traveled from Minnesota, Montana and throughout the Dakota, as well as Saskatchewan, the Canadian province, to participate, he said. “We’re a contest powwow; dancers compete for prize money.”
A series of vendors lined the perimeter of the event center, displaying and selling a range of hand-crafted items, including jewelry, garments, quilts and artwork.