At one point, it looked as if the community school powwow would be no more.
A lack of funding had led to its demise.
But this year, an organizing committee, including Prince Albert Outreach elder Liz Settee, and youth member Curtis Bird, stepped up and organized the event.
Friday, despite the rain, the powwow was well attended in Kinsmen Park, with hundreds tapping and dancing along with the dancers and drummers.
“I’m so amazed at the people that have shown up today,” Settee said Friday.
“It’s so incredible and shows how much something like this is needed yearly.”
Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne had a similar assessment.
“(The end of the school powwows was sad) because to get along, you’ve got to learn about each other’s culture. This is a great way to do that,” he said.
“You can tell from the crowd. There are about 750 people here. Great turnout, great sharing, great entertainment — it’s a great education program.”
That education piece is an important part of the Heart of Youth Powwow. Settee said it goes far beyond what you can learn in a classroom
“They’re learning about Native culture, and actually seeing a ceremony take place,” she said.
“Some of the teachings that have gone along with it, like the eagle staff that was seen this morning, and the protocol. That’s huge. Plus the students they practice powwow dance, they practice drumming and hoop dancing, but they have no place to showcase it. This is just amazing.”
Organizers chose Kinsmen Park for its central location. Dionne said events like this are “what the park is supposed to be used for.”
Friday’s event included a grand entry, followed by several inter tribal dances, where students who were not one of the competing dancers had the opportunity to join in. Hundreds filled the dance floor under the red and white tent, as the handful of drum groups took turns performing different songs. Then, they moved on to the categories. Grass, traditional and fancy dancers in the morning, with even more scheduled for the afternoon. Students didn’t just come from P.A. Many came from outlying communities, including Christopher Lake and Kinistino.
The energy and the attendance have Settee hopeful the event can continue in the future.
“I would love to see this become an annual thing. All the support we’ve gotten from the community of P.A. and the city itself — phenomenal,” she said.
“Look at all the youth we have, and look, at how excited they are. That’s how it should be. Get them involved and get them up there. You don’t have to be Aboriginal to take part in this. Anybody can take part in a powwow.