Media coverage at the time attributed the move to the repatriation conflict. However, Forrest Cox, a member of NASA's powwow committee, says the dispute "played a very small part" in the decision. The main reason for the move, Cox says, is that the students wanted to have more control over the event.
"Saline Middle School was a great site," Cox says. But both participants and spectators had trouble finding it, and Cox says attendance shrank during the powwow's three years there. Equally troubling was the location's impact on both present and prospective Native American students. "There has been a decrease in Native student recruits to the university," says Cox--a loss that "seems to be directly connected to the move so far away from campus." And the repatriation issue has been largely resolved by new federal rules that allow tribes to claim all remains found in areas they traditionally inhabited. The university is now working to return all remains requested by tribes in Michigan and other states.
Moving to Saline "seemed the best thing to do at the time," Cox says, but times have changed. This year's powwow will be back in Ann Arbor, though not at Crisler Arena: it will be held on March 17 and 18 at Pioneer High School (see Events). Cox calls it a "step toward coming back to campus," and says NASA is "opening dialogues" with university administrators to make that happen.