Heart of the Youth Community Pow Wow grows in size and inclusion

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Traditional dancing was a feature at the Heart of the Youth Community Pow Wow in Kinsmen Park on Friday morning.

The Heart of the Youth Community Pow Wow just keeps growing and the visitors keep expanding.

The annual event returned to Kinsmen Park on Friday afternoon Elder and organizing committee member Liz Settee was excited to have the event see so many people come to the park.

“(It’s) another amazing year,” Settee said. “We had the pipe ceremony start a little bit late and we could hear jingles as people were arriving. We came out and the park was just full of people. It was just amazing. Amazing.”

Nearly 4,000 people attended Friday’s powwow, including students from schools in the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division, Northern Lights School Division and Prince Albert Catholic School Division, among others. There were also visitors from a Calvary United church conference, and visitors from B.C.

The day began with a water main break on the back part of the field and wet grounds prevented the committee from raising the big red tent, which was replaced by several smaller tents

“I call it a geyser,” Settee said.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald There were several drum groups at the Heart of the Youth Community Pow Wow in Kinsmen Park on Friday morning.

“I’d like to thank the city of Prince Albert for being on the ball and fixing that geyser that water main break this morning. Tim Yeaman and the crew for the Park City parks and everything, they have been amazing.”

After rain all week the weather on Friday morning was perfect.

“That worked out. A lot of prayers went into that. A lot of prayers,” she said.

Heart of the Youth has several aims, but one of the biggest is helping First Nations and Metis youth get in touch with their culture. Settee said many elders believe it’s important to help Indigenous youth understand their history and traditions.

The day began with a Grand Entry and speeches from representatives from the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division, Prince Albert Catholic School Division, and the numerous sponsors and partners of the event.

They have now removed gender identifiers from dances, so they were simply shawl, traditional, Jingle or any other type of dance. Settee said this was because everyone is welcome in the circle and has gifts and talents.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald An Intertribal dance packed the dance area at the Heart of the Youth Community Pow Wow in Kinsmen Park on Friday morning.

“Any circle that I do, anybody is welcome,” she said. “We need connection. We need human connection and we need to learn from other people as well.”

Arius Toews, who is 12-year-old and attends Ecole St. Anne’s dances Jingle Dress and has been dancing for three years. Toews uses they/them pronounces, and said the pow wow’s openness and inclusion was important to them.

“I like how it sounds, how I love people who says them/them,” Toews said. “Some people now say they/them when they don’t know someone’s gender and I feel like it’s starting to become a safe space for us.”

Toews said that the whole day was fun for everyone.

Settee said welcoming everyone is important. She explained that one teaching she had from the late Elder Leonard Cardinal is that everyone is welcome in the circle.

“We learned (the) Creator gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason, so we listen more than we talk and we have to listen to people to get an understanding of where they’re coming from. We can’t do that if we’re not together,” Settee said.

One thing Settee loves about the Pow Wow is that it can bring everybody together. The event drew attendees from daycares, seniors homes, and even a few homeless residents.

“Like everything we have had, everything and everyone are welcome and everyone can talk,” Settee said.

Settee hopes to see the Pow Wow get bigger and become even more inclusive.

“We need to come together as a community and Prince Albert and work together,” she said.

She estimated that there were 4,000 people in the park.

“I think we’re up around 4,000 this year. My goal is to reach 5,000 some day,” Settee said.

“The first Pow Wow was in 2018 and it’s grown since then, which makes my heart happy, and to see the school, the youth from the schools, the different schools that have come out and are participating in the dancing and everything like that.

“Thanks to the teachers for bringing them. I know it’s all extra work for them and trying to keep track of them and everything.”

Settee also thanked the numerous sponsors and volunteers who make the event a success.

“We definitely couldn’t have done this without them. Definitely. It takes a lot of people and a lot of coordination to get you guys going, but it’s definitely worth that when you see that many people here coming together and hear this many jingles.”

The powwow would not be possible without the generous support of the following community sponsors:

Prince Albert Urban Indigenous Coalition, Canadian Association for Community Education (CACE), Northern Lights Casino, SIGA, Broda Group, PAGC, SaskPower, Lake Country Co-Op, City of PA and the Municipal Cultural Action Plan (MCAP), Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division, Prince Albert Catholic School Division, First Nations University Northern Campus Student Association, 2Spirits in Motion Society, Prince Albert Indian Metis Friendship Centre, Ranch Erhlo Society, SUNTEP, Lac La Ronge Indian Band, Save on Foods, Superior Diesel, Missinipi Broadcasting and All My Relations Photography.