Many Stories

Opportunities to Experience Native Culture

by | Apr 21, 2023

Our May 6th Wacipi was recently featured in the White Bear Press.

Full article here.

By Loretta Harding, Contributing Writer

The greater White Bear Lake community will provide two worthwhile opportunities to learn more about Native American tradition and protocols, including the chance to experience a powwow, or Wacipi, on May 6.


As the community at large learns about their culture, members of the Native population will also have the important chance to meet other Native families, which can be difficult in the suburbs. “It’s an amazing opportunity to connect with other Native families and grow our Native community support within (the area),” said Jennifer Murray, a Native parent who lives in Mahtomedi. “I am very excited for the upcoming powwow!”


Before the day of the powwow, the community is invited to learn about powwow etiquette at the Ramsey County Library, 2150 Second Street, White Bear Lake from 6-7 p.m. April 24. The White Bear Lake Historical Society will sponsor an etiquette seminar, “Powwow Protocols,” featuring host Rob Thomas, representing Many Faces of the White Bear Lake Area.

Lessons learned at the powwow protocol session will be especially relevant from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Saturday, May 6, at Sunrise Park Middle School, 2399 Cedar Avenue, White Bear Lake, when the entire community is invited to the Many Faces – Many Students Wacipi.


The Wacipi will serve as an opportunity to celebrate the graduation from high school of area Native student

The Dakota word for powwow, Wacipi, means “they dance” and is pronounced “wah-CHEE-pee”. A Wacipi is a traditional Native American celebration of life, said Wacipi coordinator Amy Puschinsky, director of events and development at the Maplewood Area Historical Society.


“It is a time when people gather together to dance, sing and celebrate while renewing friendships, old and new,” she said. Native American students graduating high school is an occasion that calls for such a celebration.


“Native students graduating high school is a high achievement,” Thomas said. The education system was not designed for these students to succeed, and the fact that they not only made it through but also graduated is something that should always be honored and celebrated, he said.


“So much of our culture was stripped away, and there is a huge gap in teachings being passed down to our younger generation,” Puschinsky said. “With the loss of our culture, our people lost our way of healing, leaving generations of Native people without that ability — passing on that trauma from generation to generation,” she said.


Prior to the passing of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978, many aspects of Native American religions and sacred ceremonies, such as Wacipis and powwows, were prohibited by law, Puschinsky said.


In addition to a ceremony honoring students from the Mahtomedi, White Bear Lake and North St. Paul/Maplewood/Oakdale districts, the day will include several drum groups, dancing, singing, socializing, educational booths, food trucks and Native American artisans and vendors, Puschinsky said.


The highlight of the day will be the Grand Entry at 1 p.m., when the graduates process in. This is the moment the public will want to attend.


Although the powwow is still in the planning process, most of the performers have already been lined up, Puschinsky said. Two drum groups have been booked, and a third group is being sought. The Hoka-Hey Singers will be the host drum group, and the Little Earth Singers will be the first of two invited groups. The Twin Cities Color Guard will lead the Grand Entry.


On May 6, as the community at large takes it all in, members of the Native community will be getting together, with schools again drawing people together.


Murray said she’d lived in Mahtomedi for seven years before she met other Natives in the area. The American Indian Parent Advisory Council (AIPAC) was formed to help connect Native families within the school district. “It’s so important, and the kids are excited to go to our AIPAC meetings and are forming really sweet friendships,” Murray said.


The Wacipi, which will be held outdoors (inside if the weather is poor), is sponsored by Many Faces of the White Bear Lake Area, a nonprofit organization supported by 29 individual member organizations from around the community. The nonprofit’s mission is to strengthen the community by providing opportunities to listen, learn, reflect and engage in conversations and actions that promote equity, diversity and inclusion.


It will be tempting to take pictures of the Grand Entry and ceremony, but that would not be respectful.   As you will learn at the Powwow Protocol, a Wacipi is a sacred gathering to which the public has been cordially invited. The April 24 Powwow Protocol will offer many other important points of etiquette.


“We welcome the local community at large to join us, support our youth, learn about our culture and join in!” Murray said, while thanking the Wacipi planning committee and sponsors for putting on the powwow. “It is a large undertaking,” she said.


For more details about Wacipi etiquette, be sure to attend the April 24 Powwow Protocol. For more information about the May 6 Wacipi, visit the Many Faces of the White Bear Lake Area website at