The Native American Student Union at Southern Oregon University invites the whole community to take part in its 16th Annual Spring Powwow Saturday and Sunday inside the McNeal Pavilion basketball gym. There will be two grand entries on Saturday, the first at — p.m. and the second at 7 p.m. after a dinner break. The celebrations will continue with dancing as late as 11 p.m.

Powwow, thought by some to have originated after Native Americans were forced onto reservations, is an important part of Native American culture because it integrates dancing, community and song.

The festivities are free and the public is welcome to bring their families. NASU will kick off the event with the help of this year's host drum, Perfect Storm from Hobbema, Alberta in Canada. The tribes of the Klamath River will perform a brush dance demonstration 6 p.m. Saturday. There will also be a hand-drum competition with groups of three or more. Each group must perform two songs and one must be original. First prize is $400, second prize is $250 and third prize is $150.

Vendors from SOU and other universities will be on hand during the weekend. NASU of University of Oregon will be selling fry bread and the SOU Latino Student Union will be selling tacos on Saturday.

NASU Co-chair and junior Lily Yasana believes powwow is a great way to bring the whole community together.

"It's a gathering of Native people but everyone's welcome," Yasana said. "There are different dances, singing and ceremonies."

Yasana, who has been preparing for the powwow for months, was voted "Higher Education Student of the Year" and Oregon Indian Education Association's college representative from SOU by the OIEA in March. Yasana was also a senior summer counselor at the SOU Konaway Nika Tillicum summer Native American Youth program in the summer of 2007. The camp is an eight-day academy for Native American youth filled with creative activities led by Native American SOU students such as Yasana.

The 23-year-old psychology and anthropology major is a 2002 graduate of Marshfield High school in Coos Bay where she attended Southwestern Oregon Community College up until transferring to SOU in 2006. Drawn to SOU for its small but close community, Yasana said coming to SOU was "definitely the best decision I have ever made."

Commenting on her recognition by OIEA, Yasana said, "I am just thankful for getting the award. I just want to be a positive example in education."

Native American Studies Director David West expressed pride in Yasana's achievements and involvement on campus.

"We are very proud of Lily's accomplishments and know that she will continue to enhance and represent American Indian peoples at the highest levels," West said.

As co-chair of NASU, Yasana has not had too much time to think about the award since her and members of 10 different powwow planning committees have been preparing for the spring powwow since winter term.

"NASU has worked so hard," Yasana said. "The last two weeks have been crunch time, but in the end everything works out and we'll have a great powwow. I just love being a part of it. It's just going to be a fun event."

For more information on the SOU spring powwow, contact the NASU office at 552-6463.