Jackson-based powwow creates opportunities for cultural awareness and community celebration

This weekend, Native peoples from across the region will gather outside of Jackson for the fourth annual Teton Powwow.
A small group of Native men dressed in traditional regalia with ornate beadwork, ribbons and feathers chat as they stand in front of tall glass windows.
Dancers dressed in traditional regalia talk and mingle at the Center for the Arts in Jackson during the opening night of the Teton Powwow in 2022. (Central Wyoming College)

by | May 17, 2024 | Tribal News

This story comes through a content-sharing partnership with Wyoming Public Media.

This weekend, Native peoples from across the region will gather outside of Jackson for the fourth annual Teton Powwow on May 18. The event brings together hundreds of dancers, vendors and thousands of spectators in a celebration of traditional and contemporary Indigenous cultures.

The goal of the Teton Powwow is to educate and promote cultural awareness around Native American cultures — and to create an opportunity for tribal community members from as far as Oklahoma to come together, dance and continue traditional practices.

The event got started in 2019 following conversations between tribal members and the mayor of Jackson about cultural appropriation at an Old West Days Parade the year before. At the parade, non-Native people dressed up as Native people, donning red face paint and black wigs.


Ivan Posey is an enrolled member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe and is the tribal education coordinator at Central Wyoming College (CWC), which helps organize the event. He said the Teton Powwow took a pause during the pandemic but is now in its third consecutive year.

“It’s grown into something that people in that area like, as well as tribal people. Many drive from Fort Hall and Fort Washakie and from the Wind River Reservation to participate. It’s been a good turnout,” he said.

Posey emphasized that the powwow is an entry point for non-Native folks to grow in their understanding of Native cultures, but it’s also only one part of a much larger picture of histories, policies, self-governance and ceremonies that aren’t shared with the public.

“Not all tribal people are powwow people. Not all tribal people are into arts, although it’s a beautiful part of our culture and tradition. It’s just a part of who tribal people are,” he said.

Dave Deschenes is the chief advancement officer for Native American Jump Start, a Jackson-based nonprofit that helps organize the powwow and supports Native youth and families in education and employment.

He said that as a result of high turnout, the powwow has outgrown its previous indoor venue at the Snow King Event Center. This year, it’ll take place outside at Munger Mountain Elementary School, just south of Jackson.

“In a traditional manner, powwows are typically held outside. Being able to bring it outside allowed us to expand the footprint a little bit and be able to incorporate more craft and native vendors to the event itself,” he said.

There are currently 20 registered craft vendors and four Native food vendors for the event. Based on attendance in previous years, the organizers are expecting around 300 registered dancers, who’ll compete in different styles for a total prize purse of over $40,000.

Deschenes said the biggest risk with moving the event outside was uncertainty about the weather, but Saturday’s forecast of sun and temperatures in the low 60s is putting those worries to rest.

“We are prepared with a large tent that’s 150 feet long by 80 feet wide, with lights and heaters in the event that we have bad weather, but it looks like we probably won’t even need it,” he said.

The event is open to the public and all are welcome. People are encouraged to bring their own camp chairs, dress for the weather and have cash on hand, as there are no ATMs onsite. Admission is $15 per vehicle for the general public and entry for Native Americans is free.

Today, before the powwow, there will also be two free one-hour educational presentations from the CWC Tribal Wisdom Society at the Center for the Arts. The program includes a hoop dance demonstration by Amya Whispering Rain Whelan (Eastern Shoshone, Northern Arapaho and Ojibwe), a Native American Sign Language demonstration and storytelling by Darious Tillman (Eastern Shoshone), and a presentation on contemporary Native art by painters Al Hubbard (Northern Arapaho and Navajo) and Talissa Abeyta (Eastern Shoshone). 

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About Hannah Habermann

Hannah is a NOLS Instructor, writer, and co-creator of the KHOL podcast "Yonder Lies: Unpacking the Myths of Jackson Hole." In her free time, she loves watering her plants, doing the Sunday crossword, and jumping into cold bodies of water.

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