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Job Corps students organizing community powwow at CWC

Aug 14, 2016 Photo by Daniel Bendtsen

The college has hosted powwows before, usually been in the gymnasium, but this one will be outdoors.

The Wind River Job Corps draws in many students from across the West, including regions without American Indian populations.

Reggie Lowman, an American Indian carpentry student, felt too many of his peers didn't enough much insight into his background.

So in February, he and about a dozen other students formed the "Wind River Warriors," a student organization dedicated to promoting and sharing Indian culture.

That group is now focused on organizing its first big event, a powwow held at CWC with help from its staff and students.

The powwow, set for Sept. 12, will have all the powwow staples: A feast, grand entry and a variety of dancing.

It also will have some unorthdox additions: Hand games, story-telling and a "Rez car contest," which will encourages attendees to bring their "best" beater.

"Pretty much, (the car) just has to run," said Shota Runs Close to Lodge, a building construction technology student from Ethete.

At just 22, Runs Close to Lodge said it's exciting to already be organizing a powwow in the same way she's watched her older relatives do for years.

"Everyone brings a little bit of something to the table," she said. "It makes for a new vibe."

The powwow planning is also expected to get input from the Wind River Warriors's counterpart at CWC -- United Tribes -- when classes start up Aug. 29.

CWC has hosted powwows before, but they've usually been in the gym.

Ivan Posey, CWC's recently hired diversity coordinator, is opting for a different route: Job Corps will stage the even out on the main lawn in front of the Intertribal Center.

With the powwow so early, it will be one of the first big events of the school year.

With a handful of graduated job corps students starting classes this fall, Posey said the powwow will be a good opportunity to brings ties closer between CWC and job corps, which he said is "a microcosm" of campus life.

Though Wind River Warriors started out with just Indian students in mind, it's since expanded a bit.

Seth Chambers, also a carpentry student, is white; he's also one of the key players in the student organization.

He represents the "Anglo tribe," though he said he's been told he's 1/16th Cherokee -- a identity he acknowledges is often a cliche claim by white people.

Before coming to job corps, Chambers lived in Colorado his entire life and said he was interested in getting immersed in the club and native culture because he had never lived in a place with a substantial Indian population.

Even for Indian students, the powwow can be educational.

"There are native students on campus who don't really know about their own culture," Runs Close to Lodge said.

Though it's is organized by students and funded by CWC, the powwow is hoped to attract participation from Riverton and elsewhere.

"This is for the community, not just for CWC or the Job Corps," said Christa Stream, outreach coordinator for the Wind River Job Corps.

Chambers said he hopes the powwow gives locals a better perception of job corps students.

One the powwow is over, the Wind River Warriors will move on to new projects. They've talked about organizing a drum group or building a campus teepee, and well as making crafts and moccasins.

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