ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Following weeks of uncertainty and fears that one of North America’s largest powwows might relocate to Canada, organizers and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez announced Wednesday the popular American Indian event will stay in Albuquerque and move to a smaller venue.
Martinez said all parties have agreed that the Gathering of Nations will relocate to Expo New Mexico weeks after the University of New Mexico said it would stop hosting the powwow because of cost.
“The Gathering of Nations isn’t going away,” Martinez said. “It’s staying right here in New Mexico.”
The powwow is the one of the world’s largest gatherings of Native Americans and indigenous people. This year’s event, held in April at University of New Mexico’s basketball arena, attracted about 3,000 dancers from more than 700 tribes around the United States, Canada and Mexico.
University of New Mexico data shows after cleanup costs, the powwow resulted in a loss for the school of more than $2,300 in 2015. But Gathering of Nations organizers have said for years that the university and powwow officials had been at odds over a number of issues.
News of the university’s decision sparked worry about the city’s massive powwow that brings an estimated $21 million to the Albuquerque area would move to Canada or another state.
Lita Mathews, the founder of the Gathering of Nations, said organizers have offers to take the event to Kansas, Minnesota and Illinois. “We were ready to go if we had to, but we wanted to stay in New Mexico,” Mathews said. “This is our home.”
The Gathering of Nations began in 1983 in a gym at present-day St. Pius X High School but moved to Expo New Mexico soon after. The event then relocated to the University of New Mexico and became one of the most popular powwows in the world.
A character in the 1998 “Smoke Signals” movie even mentioned the Gathering of Nations said it was such powerful pan-Indian event that would have kept Columbus away had it been around in 1492.
But moving to Expo New Mexico means Gathering of Nations organizers will have to adjust from an arena that held 15,000 people to one that holds 11,500.
“Yes, this is a little bit smaller arena but we are going to work it out,” said Derek Mathews, another one of the powwow’s founders.
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