Volkman grew up in Wisconsin. His heritage is a mixture of German, Scottish, English, Chippewa and Crow and he went by the name "Neil" when he was a child. After his adoption by descendants of Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala, he began to use the name "Nakoma." The cultural traditions of the Anishinabe-Lakota traditions have had a great influence on his life.
Students from a human relations class at Minnesota State University formed a circle around Volkman Saturday as they sat on the grass floor of a tipi that housed some of the powwow's education programs.
"I want to get rid of the stupid stereotypes," he said. Volkman referred to familiar scenes in old movies. It just wouldn't make sense for Indians to ride in circles around a wagon trail — they would be easy to shoot. Nor would lndians on horseback hit themselves on their mouths while make whooping noises — that would hurt.
Hollywood got it wrong.
"I tell them the reality," Volkman said.
His program was only part of the students' weekend experience. They arrived Friday to help direct traffic as visitors entered the park and watched Saturday night's grand entry before their fry bread lesson.
"The program offered a lot of history," said Marisol Rojas, 20, a student from Gustavus Adolphus College and a Project Gem intern. Throughout powwow weekend, Rojas assisted Alice DeYonge, the project's program director.
For 28 years, Volkman has set up a booth at the Mankato fall event, which he described as one of the best inter-tribal gatherings.
"It's very traditional and down to earth — there's no big fanfare. We have good times dancing and there are serious times as well," Volkman said.
Powwows and their education programs are a key to the survival of the culture of indigenous peoples, he said.
"We aren't just reliving the past, we are creating the future," Volkman said.