United Tribes NewsUTTC was part of huge tribal gathering
30 September 2004
by Dennis J. Neumann, United Tribes News
Washington, DC - It took a tiring 34-hour bus ride for a group from United Tribes Technical College to take part in what most believe was a once-in-a-lifetime tribal gathering. Fatigue mattered less than the excitement and honor of being involved in the grand opening here of the National Museum of the American Indian.
"It was powerful to see all the tribes together in one place," said Steven P. Walker (Three Affiliated), a Computer Support Technology student. "It may never happen like that again."
Two dozen students and staff members, led by college president David M. Gipp, joined with 25,000 other tribal people - most in regalia - in a grand procession of Native Nations. An estimated 55,000 supportive onlookers welcomed them with applause.
"It was really a festive atmosphere," said Karen Paetz (Three Affiliated), Tribal Tourism Director and trip co-coordinator. "And so warm and friendly. People were glad to see us."
"The people were up close all along the route," said Louis "Buster" Landreaux, (Cheyenne River) a UTTC employee who carried the college flag. "People called out my name when we went past."
"I saw all kinds of people I know," said Reva Hayes (Standing Rock), a Nursing student. "People from Oklahoma and Oregon, a friend who goes to school in Kansas, people from Standing Rock, others from South Dakota. It was so good I felt like crying."
The September 21 walk down the National Mall, in the heart of the nation's capitol, included representation from 500 tribes.
"It was surprising to see all the different regalia of the other cultures," said Kayla Looking Horse (Standing Rock), a Nursing student, clad in her elegantly beaded jingle dress. "The reception we got was great. So many people wanted to take photos. I really felt honored to be part of it."
"All those Indians in one place like that," said Donovan Abby (Three Affiliated), a Criminal Justice student. "It's something to tell your kids and grandkids about."
A dozen jumbo TV monitors, propped high on metal scaffolds, showed delegations as they made their way from the Washington Monument toward the Capitol. Dozens of camera operators, photographers and reporters angled for the best locations to document what was clearly an unusual scene for inside the DC beltway.
"There was a shot of us on the monitors several times," said Hayes. "We were also on CNN and ABC later. I screamed, 'We're on TV.'"
"I was interviewed by the New York Times," said Alden Spoonhunter (Northern Arapaho), an Art/Art Marketing student who wore his fancy dance regalia. "I said that I thought the new museum will widen the knowledge about First Americans and make others more aware of our culture and traditions."
During the program that followed the two-and-one-half-hour procession, speakers emphasized how the museum will help get across the message that Indians are still here.
"I think this opening event and the museum itself represents a significant step in the Indian renaissance in American life," said David M. Gipp, UTTC president. "This gathering celebrates the momentum we have in this new era. It was wonderful that our group was here to witness it."
"All the attention this got was very good," said Joe Many Bears, a UTTC employee who carried the North Dakota State flag. "It probably opened up the eyes of the world to Native Americans. It was a good start."
When the formal program ended, the weary UTTC delegation drifted past the performance stages, vendors and food tents. Some later toured the museum and visited other sites in the city. For everyone it meant more walking.
"I don't know how many miles I put on but I lost 10 pounds walking around," said Hayes.
"I was tired," said Waylon Good Left (Three Affiliated) a Criminal Justice student. "But it was the best trip. Sure, I'd do it again."
The UTTC group's return bus ride to Bismarck began the following day and lasted 31 hours.
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