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Native Sun News: University hosts 6th Indian scholarship gala

Filed Under: Education | National
More on: native sun news, south dakota

In this undated photo, nationally renowned, multitalented entertainer Jackie Bird performs her popular hoop dance, a traditional form of Native American dance using intricate manipulation of hoops to form images and tell a story. Bird, an enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, was the keynote speaker and entertainer at this year’s American Indian Scholarship Gala at Black Hills State University in Spearfish Oct. 13. PHOTO COURTESY/ISLANDCROW PHOTOGRAPHY

Black Hills State holds yearly American Indian Scholarship Gala
By David Arredondo II
Native Sun News Correspondent

SPEARFISH — Black Hills State University hosted the sixth annual American Indian Scholarship Gala in the Jacket Legacy Room on campus Saturday, Oct. 13.

The gala was sponsored by the Center for American Indian Studies at BHSU with additional support from the university’s Native American club, Lakota Omniciye, and the BHSU Alumni Association.

The event is held every October to benefit the American Indian Studies program and the Native students attending BHSU and to show appreciation for the program and students’ numerous donors and supporters. “The main goal is to raise funds for AIS students at BHSU,” said Urla Marcus, director of the Center for American Indian Studies. “I think that in its sixth year that it’s still not where it needs to be so we’re thinking of more ideas and more creative ways (of doing things), but the turnout was good.”

An estimated 75 guests, mostly non-Native American, attended the gala this year, with a limited 100 seats available. Tax deductible tickets were $75 for singles and $140 for couples. A special discount price was offered for BHSU alumni and for those 55 years old and over.

Most of the attendees were donors who contributed money, art and time throughout the year to benefit the Native American populace of BHSU.

Bryant High Horse was the master of ceremonies for the evening’s festivities. He also performed the meal prayer and introduced this year’s featured presenter, Jackie Bird.

Bird is a nationally known hoop dancer, inspirational speaker and singer. Her hour-long presentation was well received by the attendees. She sang, performed a hoop dance and presented a ventriloquist act with her puppet, Wild Flower, for the guests.

Bird interacted with the mostly non-Native audience by walking around the crowd and was “informative and entertaining,” according to Marcus.

There also was a silent auction, in which attendees give minimum bids on various artwork and items without the usual auctioneer and timed response. Additionally, auction items were displayed in the American Indian Studies center Oct. 12.

Winners were announced during the gala and took their winnings home.

Artwork was provided by Richard DuBois, Sandy Swallow and several other artists. Black Hills State donated various items for the silent auction as well.

A traditional Native American-themed banquet included customary bison tenderloins provided by InterTribal Bison Cooperative, beans, corn and squash, with catering by the university’s dining services provider, A’viands.

According to Marcus, the amount raised for the first four years of the gala was matched 100 percent — up to $20,000 — by a grant. The next two affairs — last year and this year — raised $14,000 for 21 scholarships.

Under Marcus’ direction during the last five years, over 70 undergraduate and graduate American Indian students have received financial assistance from BHSU’s Center for American Indian Studies.

“We also continue to raise money throughout the year, but the gala is the main event,” Marcus said.

Current students from Lakota Omniciye helped with the setup of the gala, checked coats for the attendees and mingled with donors.

Rilda Means, Lakota Omniciye president, addressed the crowd at the beginning of the event.

Marcus said the attendees gave “good feedback” and commented that they enjoyed the gala, particularly Bird’s presentation. She said there were no problems this year and told Native Sun News that the annual gala is continually growing.

“At first, it was mostly an on-campus event but now more people off campus are noticing,” said Marcus. “We’re always looking and keeping our eyes open for new presenters and new ideas for entertainment.”

Those interested in donating to the Center for American Indian Studies at BHSU can contact Marcus at (605) 642-6578 or

(Contact David Arredondo II at

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