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Midnight Sun Intertribal Powwow postpones for third year

Midnight Sun Intertribal Powwow 2017
Midnight Sun Intertribal Powwow
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Dancers enjoy the 2017 Midnight Sun Intertribal Powwow.

Membership Coordinator Cynthia Polzin passed out forms last weekend, trying to get new people involved with the Midnight Sun Powwow.

“’Cause there's drum groups and dance groups that come from around the world, and you get to meet a lot of people and learn about their culture. And it's really interesting and fun,” she said.

The Powwow has been part of the Fairbanks Summer scene since the late 1990s, when the group organized to bring Lower-48 tribes to Alaska for a three-day festival. Usually in July, the gathering takes a space like the Fairgrounds, or the fields near the Carlson Center. There has to be room to dance.

Sound of drumming

That Lakota drumming is from a previous Fairbanks powwow. Benno Cleveland, who has been a catalyst for the Powwow for two decades, says there hasn’t been a gathering here since 2019.

“The Midnight Sun Intertribal Powwow was going full of speed ahead for quite a few years until the pandemic came. And then it came to a screeching halt. We got disorganized and lack of funds and social distancing, and we weren't getting together,” he said.

“A lot of people really miss it. It's an outdoor activity everybody enjoys, and it's for the community,” Polzin added.

You may think it strange that an Athabascan from Eklutna, like Polzin or the Executive Director, Sean Rice, who is Inupiaq from Kotzebue, or Cleveland, who is also Inupiaq, would be the local culture-keepers for a practice that originated on the Great Plains. But the event is about unity.

The organization grew out of connections made at WEIO – World Eskimo Indian Olympics, and after getting permission from Gwich’in Traditional Chief Peter John, the summer event began.

To invite Mik’maq, Abenaki, Lakota, Cherokee, and more to come dance and drum in Fairbanks, Cleveland says the organization is putting an emphasis on fundraising this year.

“We need to raise money to bring up a guest drum, pay for their stay, their hotel, also their airfare round trip tickets for eight members. And then we also have different drum groups from different cultures from around Alaska, and we pay each an honorarium” he said.

Polzin says the organization is taking a “rebuilding year,” with a membership drive, trying to pull together the logistical expertise and about $35,000 to put on next year’s powwow.

“We've just handed out about 70 sponsorship letters. They're slowly trickling in, but, um, I know everybody's been affected with COVID, so we just gotta be patient,” she said.

The organization took down its website because it couldn’t afford the expense, but people can find donation information on the Facebook page for the Midnight Sun Intertribal Powwow.

Midnight Sun Intertribal Powwow logo
Midnight Sun Intertribal Powwow
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Robyne began her career in public media news at KUAC, coiling cables in the TV studio and loading reel-to-reel tape machines for the radio station.