Umatilla prison's first pow wow digs into the roots


People sang, danced and drummed Saturday in Umatilla, on the inside of the high prison fence.

Two Rivers Correctional Institution held its first powwow, attended by 63 inmates, more than 50 guests and 27 representatives from American Indian tribes and organizations. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and others provided salmon, huckleberries and traditional foods for the event. Prison administrators even directed staff overseeing the powwow to forgo uniforms for a more casual approach, including khakis, polos and shorts.

Naomi Strawser arrived in tribal regalia representing Lakota Oyate Ki, an American Indian culture club that originated with inmates at Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem. She said she advocates for alternative forms of justice and the need for Indian inmates to have a relationship with their culture. Without that, she said, they don’t know who they are. Building those bonds, though, connects them to a greater community.


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