Annual Wacipi event celebrates culture

Matt Allison Reporter

The 23rd annual Wacipi, hosted by the SDSU Native American Club, was held at the Swiftel Center on Sept. 14 – 15. 

Wacipi is a time that tribal members of the Upper Midwest gather to celebrate their history and shared culture. The event is centered around music, prayer, remembrance of veterans, and recognition of outstanding members of society. 

In the past, Wacipi was held in the Frost Arena, but for the last two years has been held at the Swiftel Center. There are multiple Pow-Wows at different times throughout the state. Some have dance competitions, like the Wacipi held in Brookings, others do not.  

“Wacipi is a way that we share our community with the Brookings’ community as well as with the students and faculty of SDSU,” said President of the Native American Club Ernest E. Weston, Jr. 

Grand Entry commenced at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Participants dressed in regalia entered the stadium carrying their tribe’s flag. Members of the SDSU Native American club helped carry flags. 

“It was an honor to carry the flag of my tribe,” said club member Ryan, who presented the colors of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. 

“Usually Wacipi is held in spring, but since last year we have decided to hold it in the fall. It’s become a way to welcome all students and faculty back to campus,” Ryan said. 

After the flags were presented, prayer was offered to the Creator for safety to all and for everyone to achieve their dreams. The prayer was delivered in the Lakota language. Then the speaker said a few words about the importance of preserving culture through the protection of language, in his case both understanding and passing down his Lakota heritage. Timothy Nichols, Dean of the Honors College, addressed the crowd.  

A large portion of Wacipi was dedicated to dancing. Registration for both dancers and drummers opened on Saturday at 10 a.m. and closed just before Grand Entry, although the audience was invited to participate. Drummers sat around a large drum, forming a parabola around the dancers, who themselves danced in a circle. 

“The music is uplifting, very powerful,” said SDSU student Cory. 

The rhythm of the drums being struck in unison simulated the sound of heartbeats. The announcer referred to the sound of the drums as the heartbeat of their community, describing music as a barrier-remover. 

“A good friend of mine, whom I’ve known since freshman year at Brown Hall, told me about Wacipi,” Cory said. 

The drummers were singers as well.

“Some of the songs we play are more rhythm-based while others are telling stories,” said drummer and singer, Aljoe. 

The Dakota Indian Foundation had a raffle for a work of art. The foundation provides scholarships to all Sioux students and provides grants for Pow-Wows, sundances, and other cultural events. 

One goal of the foundation is to help conserve the Lakota language by developing a dictionary and supporting the Bernstein Bears in Lakota, which airs on PBS. 

“This culture is amazing and we should do what we can to keep it alive,” said representative of the foundation Brittni Butler.