POWWOW cancelled after three years of successful events

Sierralie Perez
MesaCC Legend

On March 9 Mesa Legend received an email stating the Mesa Community College (MCC) Powwow planned for April 7- 8 was canceled. There was no further explanation for the decision. We want to know why. The Mesa Legend tried to get answers and contacted several MCC senior staff members to get them — and there was no response, at first. The college community and the community around the campus should know why the Powwow was cancelled. The decision has left students, and us for that matter, wondering if the Powwow wasn’t important to MCC. We went directly to Jim Larney, the director of the MCC American Indian Institute, but all we got was the following email addressed to ML reporter Sierralie Perez, who’s been working diligently on this story since March:

Hi Sierralie,
Thank you for your inquiry.  At this time, the circumstances surrounding the cancellation of the powwow are not for public knowledge because we are reviewing our internal processes and cannot divulge information that could be misconstrued by public perception and damage the integrity of the college and the American Indian Institute. We ask for your patience as we go through this review.

So he’s trying to tell us that any information he provides can damage the integrity of the college? We just want know why it was canceled. We’re not asking for top secret clearance to know details — not yet, anyway. The fact is the public needs to know. Who made this decision? Was there not enough funding in this program to host an event like this on campus? We would understand that. But to not respond to our questions is just wrong. Mesa Legend decided to try to get in contact with Dr. Sonya Pearson, MCC vice president of student affairs, but we had no luck. Then we emailed one more person, this time to MCC public relations liaison Dawn Zimmer, to help us schedule an in-person interview with Dr. Pearson or MCC President Sasan Poureetezadi, and here’s what we were told:

Dr. Pearson and Interim President Poureetezadi are not available.  The concern leading to the cancellation of MCC’s powwow is under review by the Maricopa County Community College District.
MCC’s powwow showcases the indigenous talent and is a source of funding for student scholarships. We are working to determine a future date to host our community for a celebration of North American Indian culture.

Those were the only responses we received after emailing and contacting several MCC senior staff. MCC is a public institution that part of its funding comes taxpayer money, so any information to a club at MCC is public knowledge. Because we were denied information from our college and were told the issue was with people in the Maricopa Community College District (MCCCD), our last option was to go directly to the District office. MCCCD spokesperson Matt Hasson said he was not familiar with the issue. We even emailed our representative at the MCCCD governing board, Augustine Bartning of District 5, just to inquire at the highest level of our college leadership about this issue. During a phone interview, he said, “I don’t have any further information at this time. It sounds the decision was made by the Mesa Community College administration, This hasn’t been something that has come up at the governing board level.”

“This hasn’t really been brought to the boards attention prior to you, at least from my knowledge,” Bartning added. The district doesn’t know about any review to the cancellation of the Powwow? Then why were we told the cancellation of the Powwow was being brought up for review with the Maricopa Community College District? There are approximately 719 Native Americans students on campus that also want to know why it was cancelled. The public needs to know.  Are those 719 Native American students not important to this campus to host a Powwow? The public just wants answers.

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