FNSA Powwow & Indigenous Cultures Festival


Tweensa Rose Mills

Tweesna Rose Mills is from the Eastern Shoshone-Yakama-Umatilla Nations. She grew up near the Nisqually River on Frank’s Landing in Olympia, Washington. Her parents, Caroline and the late LeRoy Mills were both teachers who traveled from Washington to Wyoming to stay connected to their families and homelands, which she continues to do today.

Her favorite memory of growing up attending powwows was family. She would get to see all her cousins and families she didn’t get to see every day. Singing, dancing, playing and being together, that was the best part – and, of course, the food.

 To be the Head Lady is a great honor, as you represent the female dancers of the powwow and help lead all the female dances. She is to serve as an ambassador for the event and welcome everyone to dance and to answer any questions.

Tweesna’s involvement with First Nations Student Association and Graduates United by Indigeneity is to help promote, encourage and enhance success for all students and members in Indigenous scholarship.

She is currently a graduate teaching assistant in the Film and Media Studies Department at the University of Kansas. She plans to collaborate her degrees in Indigenous Studies and Film & Media to help tell the histories and stories from an Indigenous perspective. 

“Everyone has a story, whether it’s from our past, our present or for our future. It is our responsibility as Indigenous people to have it heard and expressed from our own point of view,” – Tweesna Rose Mills

Her great-grandfather William Frank Sr. told the story of why the Mountain moved and its significance. He said two to three million years ago the Mountains in the Olympic Range in Washington State were being crowded out and had to move. As the Mountain was leaving, She told her son, “Tacomah – Don’t forget the Water, take it along with us.” So, they moved up to the Cascade Range and that Mountain today is Tacomah, also known as Mt. Rainer. That is why all the rivers run out of that Mountain – the boy didn’t forget the Water, he took it along with him.

She always gives thanks to Tacomah and to the Waters that give us life. It is a way to honor her homelands and the people she comes from that she shares this story. She grew up with many Tribal Nations who have influenced her to become the proud Indigenous woman she is today. She is here because of all of them. Tweesna is a proud Plains-Plateau- Coastal Native. She continues to sing the songs that were passed down, to honor the past and to keep them alive, which is why she always begins and ends with the Ocean song. This song represents the Waters of where she comes from in the Pacific Northwest. She grew up on the Nisqually River with the Nisqually and Puyallup People. She is part of the Nisqually Canoe Family, also known as Squalli-Absch- People of the River, People of the Grass. The song teqwu?ma? she sang in the video, is a Canoe Journey song that embodies this story and reminds us “Don’t forget the Water”. Tweesna chose this song and story to share because it represents her home and the Waters she misses. She danced to the Wild Rose drum group because it reminds her of family and of their Mountains. It is an honor to be asked to represent her People and her homelands.

“I raise my hands to each of you and give thanks. To the Heavens and Earth and all my relations, thank you!”