Still Dancing: Kyiyo Turns 50

Kyiyo Celebrates Native Culture for 50 Years


Categories: Alumni , Campus , History , Arts

Five-year-old Cianna Belle DesRosier of Browning (Maatsui Suipoyaukii “Loon Woman” in Blackfeet) enjoys UM’s 50th annual Kyiyo Celebration.
Five-year-old Cianna Belle DesRosier of Browning (Maatsui Suipoyaukii “Loon Woman” in Blackfeet) enjoys UM’s 50th annual Kyiyo Celebration.

Kyiyo means “bear” in the Blackfeet language, making it an apt name for a powwow and cultural celebration held every year at UM in the very heart of Griz country.

The 50th annual Kyiyo Celebration at UM’s Adams Center was held this April. Hundreds of the best Native American dancers and drummers from across Indian Country gathered on campus to celebrate the milestone event.

Hosted by the Kyiyo Native American Student Association, the event is one of the oldest student-run powwows in the country and allows the Native American community to share its culture with the UM campus, Missoula and beyond through traditional dance and song. The theme this year was “Honoring Our Past, Inspiring Our Future.”

As usual, the event included three grand entries that turned the Adams Center into a vast drum that echoed with traditional singing and jingling dresses – a place swirling with the beguiling colors of Native regalia. Events also included the return of a basketball tournament and the handgame. Honored guests included UM President Seth Bodnar, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Earl Old Person, the chief of the Blackfeet Nation who has served as the Kyiyo master of ceremonies for many years.

“This year’s club has worked nonstop to bring together a celebration worthy of this remarkable anniversary,” said Danielle Vazquez, president of the Kyiyo Native American Student Association.

The Kyiyo club at UM predates 1960 and was formally recognized as an official UM organization during the 1968-69 school year. The formation of the club began in 1968, when a number of Native and non-native students began meeting. Founding Kyiyo student organization members were Lorraine Edmo, Rodney Miller, Kenneth Ryan, Lloyd Coon, Harold Gray, Chris Roberts and Rex Swoboda. 

Striving to follow in the footsteps of activism and advocacy that the first club walked, the 2017-18 club has championed many Native issues in the UM and Missoula communities. The celebration included the family team dance and an art exhibit honoring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, plus a hand-drum contest in memory of those lost to suicide.

The Kyiyo student association plays an integral role in promoting the cultural traditions and customs of all Native Americans. Through extracurricular activities offered throughout the year, Kyiyo engages UM employees and students in Native cultural identities to support cultural diversity. Kyiyo is open to all Native American and non-Native students, as well as community members.

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