The 3rd Annual Teton Powwow is underway, bringing a celebration of Native American culture to western Wyoming. And organizers say they want to help Jackson become a more welcoming place for indigenous people, following years of injustice, racism and acts of cultural appropriation.
In 1895, white people stopped Shoshone-Bannock elk hunts in Jackson in a deadly encounter. What ensued was a fight over land rights that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
“From that time on the greater Jackson area was known as an unfriendly area for the Shoshone people to come back to,” said Dave Deschenes, the board chair for Native American Jump Start, a group that helps provide young Native Americans with employment opportunities and is sponsoring the Friday and Saturday event in Jackson.
But Deschenes said the Teton Powwow is offering some Wyoming Native American residents an opportunity to reconsider visiting Jackson.
“We just got a call yesterday from an 80-year-old grandmother who is coming to participate in the powwow. It will be her first time ever coming from Fort Hall to Jackson,” Deschenes said.
The old west tourism town of Jackson has a history of being culturally offensive. In a 2018 parade, non-Native Americans portrayed American Indians with red face paint and black wigs.
“It hasn’t been as inclusive as what we as a community feel we should be and want to be right now,” said Susan Durfee, Director of Outreach for Central Wyoming College, which is also helping organize the 3rd Annual Teton Powwow.
Recent U.S. Census data show Jackson as predominantly white with 1.5 percent of the population identifying as American Indian or Alaska Native.
Durfee and Deschenes said they hope the Teton Powwow will educate the community on Native American traditions, dance and history.
“If local residents aren’t familiar with the culture and what those components are like,” Deshanes said. “This helps set up that opportunity for people to have a better understanding of Native Americans as a whole.”
Durfee says 1,700 people attended the Teton Powwow in 2022.
“For those that come and view that are not Native Americans, it connects us with a history and legacy of our Native American neighbors,” Durfee said. “It speaks of the land that we’re living on.”
Organizers say the Teton Powwow brings together tribal nations from across the Mountain West states of Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Utah to reconnect with friends and family and continue historical traditions that have been passed down for generations.
Friday’s events are underway. Free educational presentations about American Indian culture are being held at the Center for the Arts throughout the day. Followed by a ticketed The Native American Showcase event at 7 p.m.
Saturday at the 3rd Annual Teton Powwow at the Snow King Events Center:
10:00 a.m. Grounds blessing and craft and food vendors open
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Dancer registration
12:00 p.m. Grand Entry 12:00-5:00 p.m. Intertribal and contest dancing
5:00-6:00 p.m. Dinner break
6:00-9:00 p.m. Intertribal and contest dancing
9:00-10:00 p.m. Dance contest results
Admission is free for Native Americans, veterans and kids under five. For all others a donation of $5 is requested.