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UTTC Native Songs Project

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This year’s United Tribes Technical College International Powwow Week in Bismarck will feature the unveiling of a project that aims to revive Native songs.

The Densmore/Lakota Songs Repatriation Project is named for ethnomusicologist Frances Densmore of Red Wing, Minnesota, who visited Standing Rock from 1911-14 and recorded traditional songs on a hand-cranked, wax cylinder recorder. An ethnomusicologist is someone who studies the music of different cultures.

The selections recorded by Densmore had been passed down for generations, and some were already more than a century old. Densmore documented the work in her book “Teton Sioux Music,” which contained additional stories and insights into Lakota/Dakota life and became a touchstone for learning about the culture.

The Densmore Project uses technology to make the songs more accessible for a new generation of Native singers and educators. Co-producer Courtney Yellowfat from Standing Rock has involved traditional singers to record the songs and people with Indigenous knowledge to interpret the culture of the time.

Co-producer David Swenson, owner of Makoche’ Studios in Bismarck, has made the recordings accessible on multiple media platforms: touchscreens, thumb drives and online.

The project is supported by the Bush Foundation, the North Dakota Council on the Arts, Dakota Legacy and Humanities North Dakota. Standing Rock Community Schools, Sitting Bull College and UTTC are partners.

The annual UTTC Tribal Leaders Summit & Trade Show at the Bismarck Event Center will kick off Powwow Week, running from Tuesday through Thursday. The conference usually draws about 700 people from throughout the Great Plains to discuss issues in tribal leadership, governance and sovereignty.

This year’s keynote speakers include Heather Dawn Thompson, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Tribal Relations; Jeannie Hovland, vice chair of the National Indian Gaming Commission and director of its Office of Self-Regulation; and Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Tim Mentz.

The powwow, which includes arts and crafts and food vendors, is Friday through Sunday at Lone Star Veterans Arena on campus. Youth Day activities are Friday morning. The first Grand Entry is at 7 p.m. Friday night, with a welcome by UTTC President Leander McDonald, and dancers and singers competing for prize money. The second grand entry is at 1 p.m. Saturday, the third is 7 p.m. Saturday and the fourth is 1 p.m. Sunday. A free bison and beef feed is at 4 p.m. Sunday, with award presentations and a drum champions song closing out the powwow.

Previous powwows have drawn between 10,000 and 20,000 people. The week includes many other events, including golf, basketball and softball tournaments and a Thunderbird Run.

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NATIVE Inc. events

NATIVE Community Development Inc. will host free events in partnership with the Leaders Summit and powwow.

NATIVE Inc. will host the ND Indian Youth Leadership Academy Conference for high school students from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday in Event Center Prairie Rooms 104 and 105. Students must contact their high school office to obtain details on registration, excused absence and transportation.

The nonprofit also will host an inaugural free Breakfast Wopida Feed at the powwow from 9-11 a.m. Saturday on the north end of the UTTC campus. Staff also will host an informational booth at the powwow Friday through Sunday.

NATIVE Inc. provides housing, culture, education, and workforce and economic services. The Native American Development Center is marking its 10-year anniversary and will hold a public open house from 1-5 p.m. Thursday at 2403 E. Thayer Ave. in Bismarck.

For more information, email or call 701-887-1032.