Tiospaye’s 41st annual Wacipi joined together cultures and generations through a combination of song, dance and drums Mar. 16-17 in the DakotaDome.
“I’ve grown up in South Dakota, but I’ve never seen this much of Native American culture before,” first-year Jenna Johnson said.
Tiospaye Student Council President Warren Peterson helped create the theme of Wacipi, “Rising Above-Expectations for Generations.”
“It shows we have a lot of respect for our past and potential students,” Peterson said. “Previous Wacipi were as great as this one. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we did today.”
Peterson said at least four different tribes outside of the Great Sioux Nation, the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota tribes, were represented. The powwow held dance competitions for various forms of traditional dance.
Senior Alexis Oskolkoff of the Rosebud Tribe was the only USD student to compete at Wacipi.
“For me, being here feels more like home,” Oskolkoff, who competed in Women’s Traditional Dance, said. “I get homesick.”
Jerome Kills Small, a retired instructor of Lakota and Native Studies, said healing is a major theme in the dances, especially Women’s Traditional and Women’s Jingle.
“Women dance in remembrance of places we lost,” Kills Small said. “They dance for those who can’t. We don’t say that out loud, you are supposed to inherit it.”
The jingle dances consist of a woman dancing in a skirt covered in metal cones. Kills Small said the dance originated from a dream. Women danced the jingle dance for a sick, little girl. At the next festival time, the little girl came into the arena in a jingle dress, healed.
Kills Small said he spoke to a man at Wacipi who used to run marathons, but is now confined to a walker.
“He told me, ‘I can’t dance, but this is so healing for me,’” Kills Small said. “It’s like a memory, puts you back when you were well. But nobody talks about it.”
For Oskolkoff, who competed in Fancy Dance until she began competing in Women’s Traditional in 2006, Wacipi embraces the ideas of the jingle dance.
“To me, it is more of a gathering. It’s for healing,” Oskolkoff said. “It brings a piece of home.”
Although Oskolkoff was the only USD student competing, other USD students and members of Tiospaye joined in on dances.
“A lot of the students that go to college weren’t dancers, or get caught up in classes,” Peterson said. “We also need students to run things. We definitely promote the idea [of competing].”
Along with embracing culture, Peterson said the event also helps to increase diversity.
“It helps to show inclusion, and to increase the retention of Native Americans,” Peterson said. “It helps little kids see a college.”