Gathering in Gratitude at the 11th Annual Neerchokikoo Powwow: Dancing on Native land!

Gathering in Gratitude at the 11th Annual Neerchokikoo Powwow: Dancing on Native land!

On September 16, the Portland region’s Native community, NAYA staff, and allies came together for the first in-person powwow in nearly four years. NAYA’s campus was transformed as drummers and dancers gathered in the pavilion, vendors filled the gymnasium with their crafts and wares, and honorees and guests participated in our honoring ceremony. It was truly a sunny day!

The 11th Annual Neerchokikoo Powwow was also a celebration of the completion of the “Return to Neerchokikoo” Campaign ensuring that NAYA’s campus remains a safe and permanent home for the Portland area’s Native community. NAYA’s campus is at Neerchokikoo, an ancient fishing village and traditional gathering place, and a place of deep significance for the Native community.  

As drum groups completed their check ins, our Honoring Ceremony began, with a tribute to the donors, partners, past board members, and individuals who played a critical role in our Return to Neerchokikoo campaign. Each honoree was gifted a beautiful honoring necklace, symbolizing community wealth and the connection between past and future investments. 

The powwow kicked off with the Color Guard ceremoniously bringing in the colors, and dancers of all ages were called to the floor with a wonderful schedule of dances and exhibitions. Dancers of all ages, from elders to tiny tots, gracefully moved across the floor as drumming and traditional songs echoed throughout Neerchokikoo. Each dancer proudly wore their regalia, a visual representation of the community’s journey of self-determination. MC Gilbert Brown called the schedule of dances, including Intertribals, exhibitions of Traditional, Jingle, Fancy, and Grass dances, and shared the significance and history behind each dance performance. “Saturday Night Live” dancing brought wonderful energy to the floor, with dancers participating in specials and showcasing their best moves. 

In honor of our Two Spirit community members, and in a first for NAYA’s powwow, a Two Spirit head dancer took their place of honor beside the traditional roles of head man and woman. Ei-Shah Pirtle-Wright, a proud representative of the Wasco tribe and Many Nations Academy alumni, created a space that honored the sacredness of medicine people and Two Spirit relatives. This inclusion welcomed participants to dance in a style that resonated with them, regardless of their gender identity. 

It wouldn’t be a powwow without a fabulous display of Native crafts and artistry, and this year’s Artisan Fair did not disappoint. Nearly 30 vendors, all participants of NAYA’s microenterprise programs, and representing various tribal nations from across the country, showcased beautiful jewelry, traditional medicines, and artwork–there was something for everyone. We want to give a special shout out to one of our vendors, Kitana Connelly, who created the beautiful image featured on this year’s merch. 

And, of course, there was food! Our Many Nations Academy offered nachos, dogs, and drinks, while the traditional long line up at the frybread stand awarded delicious Killer Taco Frybread to those who waited. The 11th Annual Neerchokikoo Powwow served as a reminder of NAYA’s journey and the progress we’ve have made as an organization. It was a celebration of culture, community, and the resilience of Native people. It was also a celebration of the realization of a community’s vision and dream. Return to Neerchokikoo marks a significant milestone, ensuring that the Portland region’s Native community has a permanent home to serve generations for years to come.  

Thank you to all those who attended! Your presence, participation, and support made the 11th Annual Neerchokikoo Powwow a beautiful success. Together, we celebrated our community’s achievements and shared the joy of our cultural heritage. We express our deepest gratitude to the head staff who made our powwow truly memorable: 

Head Staff:

  • MC: Gilbert Brown (Klamath/Modoc and Paiute)
  • Arena Director: Frank Goes Behind (Nooksack, WA)
  • Head Woman: Gina Bluebird Stacona (Oglala Lakota)
  • Head Man: Jason Stacona (Warm Springs) 
  • Two Spirit Head Dancer: Ei-Shah Pirtle Wright (Warm Springs/Siletz/Klamath Modoc)
  • Color Guard: Local Native Veterans 
  • Host Drum: Bad Soul 
  • 11th Annual Neerchokikoo Powwow image artist: Kitana Connelly | TwahnaCreation | @creatortwahna 
  • Future Generations Collaborative: Community Meal Hosts