RAPID CITY, SD -
Improving relations between all races is an ongoing challenge across the country. And recent graffiti incidents at two South Dakota Universities shows the work is far from over.
A powwow in Rapid City is helping to educate more people about Native American culture and traditions.
"[It's to] share about culture, song and dance, maybe break some stereotypes and clear up some misunderstandings and teach about respect," Black Hills Powwow Association's president Stephen Yellowhawk said.
Among the event's spectators are 2,800 students from the Rapid City and Douglas School Districts. It's part of an effort to teach students the value of learning about different cultures.
"Through this greater understanding, we believe that we create an environment where everyone feels a bit more engaged and welcome in our school, which means they'll be successful long-term," Rapid City Schools Superintendent Tim Mitchell said.
Part of that means combating ignorance, which appeared in the form of racially charged graffiti on the campus of SDSU last week.
"A lot of hurtful things can come from not understanding and not knowing, ignorance if you will," traditional dancer Lynn Cuny said.
"I mean, it saddens me that things have to get to that point. And you know, it's not the race as a whole on either side. It's just ignorant individuals who make poor choices," Yellowhawk said.
And organizers are hopeful that through this year's powwow, which is one of the biggest so far, spectators will leave with a better grasp on diversity.
"The problems come through ignorance. Whenever you take steps to gain a better understanding of people it's positive," Mitchell said.
"Promoting that cultural awareness, our diversity, celebrating that diversity and being able to do that in a positive way is a very important part of the solution," Cuny said.
The Black Hills Powwow runs through Sunday at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
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