Hundreds gathered to participate and observe the 2nd Annual Running Strong for American Indian Youth Powwow held Aug. 6 at Waterfront Park.
The colorful extravaganza served to showcase Native American culture through a daylong series of events and activities including intertribal dancers, drum groups, community resources, popup vendors, and information on Native American customs.
“Today is a time for us to celebrate as a collective community of native people,” said Kyle Swann, a member of the Piscataway Conoy tribe and one of the event coordinators. “It is very hard for us to have the space to do something like this. We live in an area where native culture is not prevalent so today is a chance to come together, bring traditions into the modern world and celebrate the future we are building together. Our goal is to continue to be seen, continue to be heard and continue to be considered.”
Running Strong for American Indian Youth is an Alexandria-based nonprofit that traces its beginnings to U.S. Olympic champion Billy Mills, who was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota. A member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, Mills won a gold medal in the 10,000-meters at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, a victory considered one of the greatest Olympic upsets.
Mills co-founded the organization with Eugene Krizek with the aim to help Native American people fulfill their basic needs – food, water, and shelter – while also helping their communities gain self-sufficiency and self-esteem.
“Billy and Eugene joined efforts to address needs on the Pine Ridge reservation, specifically to help the Lakota people,” Swann said. “Billy’s dream was to continue to expand and now we are a national nonprofit with programs throughout the whole country.”
Eugene Krizek, father of Del. Paul Krizek of Mount Vernon, died in 2021.
The DC area Powwow brought together Native Americans to have a community space to connect with and celebrate cultures together.
“This Powwow is how we are celebrating coming together,” said Kerry Reed of the Cherokee tribe in North Carolina. “We are no longer fighting among each other because we are different tribes. This Powwow is how we come together.”
Tribes were represented from across the region and as far away as Michigan.
“Today is about creating space for our native brothers and sisters on the East Coast,” said Running Strong program assistant Macey Michaelson. “Today gives everyone a place to gather and celebrate the culture through traditional dances and other customs.”
Waterfront Park is part of the land and river system of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers surrounding the U.S Capital. The area is home to the Piscataway, Pamunkey, Nentego, Mattaponi, Chickahominy, Monacan, and Powhatan Tribes.