Graduates honored

MSU holds annual Honor Dance and Powwow Celebration

Mark Jones/MDN Dancers perform during the Grand Entry at the MSU Dome Saturday at the annual Spring Honor Dance.

The 28th annual Native American Spring Honor Dance and Powwow Celebration was held Friday and Saturday at the Minot State Dome.

The event, which is the largest MSU student event, paid tribute to school graduates at all levels.

“The object of this is to honor graduates,” said Annette Mennem, director of the MSU Native American Center. “We don’t just honor MSU graduates, but any graduate.”

All graduates were honored Saturday night with a Honor Parade, which followed the Grand Entry, which was the time all dancers entered the floor. It was held twice both days.

The graduates and their families were also honored with a buffalo meal on Saturday evening in the student center.

The event originally started in 1989 as three members of the Fort Berthold tribe wanted to hold a powwow to celebrate their graduation. That first powwow was held in Swain Hall.

The event has now grown by leaps and bounds since then.

“It’s gone awesome,” Mennem said of how the weekend went. “On Friday, we had a record number.”

Mennem, who has been involved with the event since 2011, says the event drew between 1,500 and 2,000 people each day. The event brought people in from Canada, South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In addition to the dance competition to honor graduates, the event included acknowledgment of achievements, food booths and Native American arts and crafts for sale.

Mennem says there were 13 vendors at this year’s event, compared to only four when she first got involved in 2011. Those vendors came as far away as Washington, New Mexico and Colorado.

The dance competitions, much like rodeos, have money prizes awarded.

Mennem says some powwows can pay out as much as $5,000 or $10,000. But this one doesn’t pay out as much as it is a smaller one.

However, this year’s event will pay out more than it ever has.

“We’ve doubled the payout because of the hard work of everyone,” she said.

While Mennem wouldn’t be specific about the payout, she said she wanted to reward those involved.

“Without the dancers and drummers, you don’t have a powwow,” she said.

And while the annual event was a success, there is little time to relax.

“We start planning for next year tomorrow,” Mennem said.

MSU is one of two universities in the state – University of North Dakota being the other – to maintain a Native American Center.

“Most have gone to multicultural centers,” Mennem said.

On average, MSU has 20 Native Americans graduate each year. However, Mennem says that number is a little down this year.

The success of the event was helped from volunteers, which included Three Affiliated Tribes, and students at MSU.

Moving forward, Mennem is hopeful of getting help from former Native American students to help expand the event.

“I would like Native American alums at MSU to contact us,” she said. “To see how they can help. We want to make it bigger, but we don’t want out students to miss class.”

For more information, Mennem can be reached at