Honouring Our Students: Pow Wow and Indigenous Festival
On March 11, 2017, a pow wow was held in the Sports Gym at the University of Toronto. This first major pow wow on campus in decades was hosted by the Indigenous Studies Students’ Union.
It was meant to be a ‘teaching pow wow.’ The grand entry included a parade of the Canadian, American, and several other, tribal flags. Speeches in different Indigenous languages were delivered throughout the day. Vendors displayed colourful beaded crafts, paintings, jewellery, moccasins, and more. Events featured smoke dancers, Aztec dancers, Inuit drummers, and a 9-year-old Inuit singer.
Celebrating the history and traditions of First Nations people.
The constant beat of the drums ignited the proud, agile individual and group dancers along with the elders and tots as young as two years old. As one of the elders commented to me: "When they are very young, they just watch and dance and they keep on learning." We felt the gracious inclusivity of the dancers when they welcomed us into their circle to dance.
I was so happy to be a part of this joyful, invigorating event. It brought back grateful memories of teaching in New Hazelton, B.C. where I was privileged to assist in teaching an Indigenous dance which was considered sacred. The girls wore their Carrier tribe blankets with buttons and the boys wore moose hide moccasins and costumes made by some of their parents.
Congratulations to all the students and organizers of this pow wow for providing an event for us to heighten our awareness of the rights, traditions, and culture of Canada’s First Nations people.
Recommendation 66 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission states: "We call upon the federal government to establish multiyear funding for community-based youth organizations to deliver programs on reconciliation, and establish a national network to share information and best practices." This pow wow responded to the recommendation beautifully and it was wonderful to be a part of it.
Sister Betty Lou Knox