It's a great honor to once again share with our readers some wonderful photos and a warm review of the 21st Annual UT Arlington Pow Wow that took place this past weekend. Photographer Emilia Gaston was on hand to shoot the event and interview some of the key players this year. Please read more below from Ms. Gaston!
On Saturday, the University of Texas at Arlington Native American Student Association (NASA) hosted the 21st Annual Benefits powwow with a goal of raising scholarship money to benefit Native students and simultaneously honored Dr. Rodney Stapp, former CEO of the Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas.
Co-founded by Dr. Joseph Bohanon (Choctaw), NASA is the longest active higher education Native student organization in Texas, and the powwow has grown yearly since its charter. The 2016 powwow raised over $3,800 in scholarship funds, most of which wouldn’t have been possible without the generous donations from vendors, offering up their pieces as raffle items, along with contributions from the community.
Attendance rose to over 1,000 and included over 50 dancers made up of more than 15 tribes. Stephanie Vielle, the current President of NASA, expressed pride in the association’s achievements and hopes to pass the reigns over to a new group of dedicated students in the coming year.
“The main goal is a new executive board, as most of the seniors are about to graduate. I want to participate as an alumni, as we know that there were a lot of alumni who helped us thrive,” said Vielle.
This year, following the unexpected loss of highly-esteemed community member, podiatrist Dr. Rodney Stapp in January, the students decided to use the powwow as a way to honor his achievements and life’s work as a dedicated servant to the Native community near and far by presenting the family with an honorary blanket and donation. “He was an extraordinary man and the loss of him is a loss to many of this community,” said Vielle.
As the CEO of the Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas (UITCT), Dr. Stapp lead efforts to improve the health and well-being of American Indians in the Dallas/Fort Worth area by turning the center into an Indian-owned full-service health and economic resource hub.
“He always had a strategic vision, not only thinking about the next generation but seven generations out, as the Native American culture emphasizes,” said Michael Stapp, Dr. Stapp’s brother.
Dr. Stapp’s eventual position as CEO started when he pursued podiatry after his mother suffered two amputations due to complications of diabetes. Dr Stapp’s career then became devoted to improving the health of Native citizens across the country, most notably with the development of a diabetic shoe with Nike, designed to fit the Native American foot profile, which eventually grew into the N7 line by Nike.
“His vision to continue to grow and expand on things was something I took great pride in and I really admired about him,” said Stapp.
Angela Young, the Interim CEO of the UITCT and Dr. Stapp’s right-hand woman, remembers fondly the thousands of miles travelled across the country with Dr. Stapp to conferences and events spreading the importance of American Indian healthcare to the masses.
“He was a visionary, and the good thing is that the people that were close with him can continue to carry out his vision like we’re doing today,” said Young. After 14 years working alongside Dr. Stapp, Young’s greatest takeaway was being able to learn what it meant to truly be a servant to the American Indian and Alaskan Native people.
“He gave me the ability to forsee and forecast what needed to be done and have the ability to plan for anything that might be a roadblock to our people.”
With the creation of the brand new community garden at the UITCT, Dr. Stapp’s community leadership is blossoming alive and well with a naming ceremony planned for the spring, named after Dr. Stapps’ mother’s family (Comanche). The garden was built as not only a sanctuary but as a way to educate American Indians about getting back to the roots of eating natural foods, rather than the so-often consumed commodity diet.
But even in his widespread legacy, Dr. Stapp’s servitude will continue to live on in the newly announced Dr. Rodney Stapp Memorial Scholarship Fund, created by his family.
Through several generous donations since his passing along with a $100.00 donation from NASA at Saturday’s annual powwow, the fund is in the early planning process and is aimed to benefit Native American students, without limitations on tribe or location.
As the family continues to work out the legalese of the scholarship fund, Michael Stapp emphasized that the goal is to have an annually recurring award that is selected from as large and diverse of a set of Native American candidates as possible. Working with various tribes and organizations is also in the works as the idea grows.
In Dr. Stapp’s passing, it is clear that the legacy of such a leader can only be solidified in those they inspire. As the north Texas community adjusts from the loss of a trailblazer, his ideas live on in the lives of others and generations to come.
“He was a great man with a great heart and he did whatever he could to help the Indian community,” said Young, and the newly sparked efforts in his absence are sure to continue a lifetime of vision and servitude.
Thank you again Emilia Gaston for sharing your photos and words with us. It sounds like the pow wow was a great success and Dr. Stapp was honored in a wonderful way. We look forward to seeing more photos from you!
Last Updated on December 13, 2023 by Paul G