A medical marijuana company, Ultra Health, based in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico, has become the first cannabis based business to sponsor the Gathering of Nations Powwow in 2017. The prestigious event is one of the most celebrated Native American gatherings in the country, attended by almost 90,000 people in Albuquerque last year. The 3 day event takes place April 27th to the 29th. The location for the event will change to the new Powwow Grounds at the Tingley Coliseum/Expo in Albuquerque and the title of the event will now be “Ultra Health – Gathering of Nations”. The medical marijuana company will have the option to continue to be the official sponsor for 5 years, with the option of continuing for another 5 years until 2027.
Ultra Health’s Relation with the Native American Community
Duke Rodriguez, CEO and President of Ultra Health, said in a statement, “The Gathering of Nations Powwow is a very spiritual and social celebration. At Ultra Health we believe such components are vital to well-being, and sponsoring the event was an obvious decision in light of the importance Native people have historically put on healing and natural medicine.” Ultra Health has been focused on working with tribes for some time. They worked with the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe to open 2 dispensaries and a large cultivation center on the Snow Mountain Reservation. They have been talking with various tribes about working together on a number of projects including marijuana retailing, cultivation and event promotion.
Highlights of the Powwow
The powwow is considered to be like the Super Bowl of Native American dance competitions. Over 3,000 singers and dancers from more than 700 tribes from both Canada and the U.S. gather every year to connect as well as compete. The event will feature music and exhibitions that are both contemporary as well as traditional from over 800 Native American artists, crafts people and traders.
Medical Marijuana Company Sponsorship Ethics Questioned
Some concern came from various marijuana advocates who were speculative about the medical marijuana company adding their name to the title of the event. Deborah White Plume, who is the wife of Alex White Plume, a long time marijuana advocate, told Indian Country Today Media Network, “First of all, I am curious what the organizers get for sponsorship. But ultimately, though I use medical marijuana, I feel this is an exploitative and corporatizing of Native people. I think it would be friendly and respectful if Ultra Health took their name off of the event name, otherwise it is just another exploitative and oppressive gesture to the red nation.”
Despite concerns, the organizers of Gathering of Nations said that they consider the sponsorship to be similar to the deals they’ve made with other health and dental organizations in the past. Rodriguez said to ICTMN, “We debated whether this was the right thing to do. But we did a lot of research and found the highest rates of support for cannabis is from Native people.” Ultra Health reiterated that they are committed to continuing to build on the positive relationships they are creating with Native American tribes, now and in the future.