Council backs growing community powwow event

Inaugural Community Powwow Day to be celebrated on the last Friday of May

Dancers perform during the 2018 Heart of the Youth Pow Wow at Kinsmen Park. (Herald file photo)

A growing community event has received support from city council.

The Heart of Youth Community Powwow was asking for annual recognition on the last weekend of May each year. Council wholeheartedly supported the proposal.

The community powwow grew out of a similar event put on by local schools. Planning for the event was taken over by a community group in 2018. That year, they expected 900 participants at their new, expanded powwow in Kinsmen Park. Instead, 1,800 showed up.

The next year, they planned for 3,000 but topped 3,500. Last year’s event was cancelled due to COVID-19, but committee member Elder Liz Settee said they expected about 4,000.

This year’s event is taking place virtually, but the plan is to make it an annual celebration going forward. Settee expects at least 4,500 to show up in person in 2022, if in-person events are considered safe.

Seeing the growth of the event and the support from council made Settee’s heart “happy.

“My heart soars,” she told reporters following the presentation.

“This is huge for the city. It’s huge for Truth and Reconciliation. The youth can actually feel like they’re a part of something now.”

The city’s inaugural Community Powwow Day will be held this year on May 28, and continue on the last Friday of May each year. It will be set aside as a day reserved for education about the powwow and Indigenous culture. Community members will be invited to wear a ribbon skirt or ribbon shirt.

While Settee was pleased with council’s support, she said the city has been a big help in the past. They’ve donated the park and garbage bins, and made a monetary donation one year.

“Mayor Dionne has been up there helping himself,” she said.       

“It gives pride to young people,” Dionne told the Herald following the meeting.

“They get to showcase themselves with their peers. It really does good for our community.”

 Settee said the event is only going to grow because it brings people together.

“It’s inclusive. It strikes up conversations,” she said.

“It opens the door for learning, for sharing, for forgetting all the — stuff — and … just going out and having fun and watching the colours and the dancing and listening to the drumming and the heartbeat of mother earth, and connectedness to each other. Even if you don’t know the people next to you, you feel connected.

Settee was joined during her presentation by a youth drummer, Paxton Redskins, and a pair of young people who are helping to organize the event, Aiden and Addison McInnes.

Representatives from the Heart of Youth Powwow presented at City Council Monday. Pictured are Delphine Melchert (far left), Aiden and Addison McInnes (front) Paxton Redskins (back middle ) and Elder Liz Settee. The group informed council of the plans to proceed with a virtual event in 2021 and asked that the last Friday of may be designated as Community Powwow Day for a day reserved for education about the powwow, Indigenous culture and where community members will be invited to wear a ribbon skirt or ribbon shirt. Council agreed to the request and May 28 of this year will be designated as Community Powwow Day. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Fellow committee member Delphine Melchert said the youth who appeared at council Monday wanted to stay involved.

Aiden said invitations have been sent to all local area schools inviting staff and students to participate in the production of this year’s virtual event. He added that the package sent to teachers includes materials about the history of the powwow.

Addison invited all of council to participate in the virtual powwow, which will film performances at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre.

“I’m proud to be a part of it,” she said.