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North America's largest powwow attracts thousands to New Mexico for celebration of culture

Native American and indigenous dancers wait their turn to join the procession during the grand entrance at the 32nd annual Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque N.M., on Friday, April 24, 2015. The three-day event is North America's largest powwow, attracting indigenous dancers, drummers and singers from across the U.S. and Canada.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan
April 25, 2015 - 7:01 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Droves of Native American and other indigenous performers and spectators have converged in New Mexico for the 32nd annual Gathering of Nations, North America's largest powwow. Here are some things to know about the event:



More than 3,000 dancers, drummers and singers representing some 700 tribes from the United States and Canada typically attend the three-day festival in Albuquerque. The competitions also draw tens of thousands of spectators from around the world.

This year's celebration started Thursday.



Dancers file into the arena in a large procession during grand entries Friday and Saturday.

They don traditional costumes with colorful beads, feathers, fringed leather and bells. Their pounding feet keep time with beating drums as they funnel into the bottom of the University of New Mexico arena, better known as The Pit.

The participants join the procession in a specific order and then twist toward the arena's centre. The formation gets tighter with each pass until the floor is packed.

Grand entries can last close to an hour.



Twenty-one women are competing this year for the crown of Miss Indian World. The contest is one of the largest and most prestigious cultural pageants for young Native women.

They're judged on public speaking, dance, traditional presentations and more.

Current Miss Indian World Taylor Thomas will pass on the crown to this year's winner Saturday. The winner will spend the next year travelling internationally, serving as a role model and cultural ambassador.



This year's powwow was preceded by a special gathering to kick off a White House initiative called Generation-Indigenous, or Gen-I.

About 300 Native youth from across the country met Thursday to discuss individual community projects aimed at tackling some of the challenges faced by American Indian and Alaska Native teens, from high suicide rates to low graduation rates.

Some of the teens will reconvene this summer in Washington, D.C.



Like any good gathering, the powwow has music, vendors and fry bread.

At the Indian Traders Market, more than 800 artisans and crafters show off their wares. On Stage 49 near the arena, Native American musicians perform a range of genres, including country, reggae, rap and rhythm and blues.



Organizers expect anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 visitors, providing a boost to Albuquerque's hospitality industry.

According to a recent study by the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, the Gathering of Nations has had an average annual economic impact of about $21 million over the past five years.



News from © The Associated Press, 2015
The Associated Press

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