For the first time since 2019, the Heart of The Youth Community Powwow returned to an in-person event at Kinsmen Park.
Elder and organizing committee member Liz Settee was excited to have the event be in person again.
“My goodness just to feel the energy,” Settee said. “I am totally hyped. I am so filled with energy right now and it’s coming from these youth and everybody that’s here, and the beautiful day that we have been gifted.”
Nearly 3,000 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.
“This is how our world should be,” Settee said. “It’s people coming together.”
Settee said that every year in person the event has grown, with around 1,800 the first year and close to 3,000 in 2019. Settee said they hoped to beat that total on Friday, and they had a good chance of doing it, with visitors from as far away as Ahtahkakoop in attendance.
“I can’t even explain it,” Settee said. “I’m not overwhelmed, but I’m just piped and hyped and just excited because everyone is going to leave with such wonderful memories.”
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.
“I know for myself, my spirit, it’s like a flame,” she explained. “It was almost out and as soon as I started with my culture and learning, my flame just grew.
“I’m hoping that it sparks that flame in some of our youth in wanting to learn more and be curious and to find out where they come from and what their culture is, and to not be scared to ask questions because that’s how we learn.”
The day began with a Grand Entry and speeches from representative from the City of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan Rivers School Division, Prince Albert Catholic School Division and the numerous sponsors and partners of the event.
The city’s second Community Powwow Day was on Friday and will 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.
This year they removed gender identifiers from dances so they were simply shaul, traditional, Jingle or any other type of dance. Settee explained that was because everyone is welcome in the circle and has gifts and talents.
“Creator does not make junk,” she said. “We are all important. We are all his children or her children or their children. The Two Spirits bring balance and we have to start respecting that instead of shunning it. They have been shunned for so long that we just felt it was time to do something to include them,” she said.
The initiative was recommended to the committee by member Jennifer Lenny, who is Two Spirit. Settee said they adopted it immediately and wondered why they didn’t adopt it sooner.
“This is where everybody is welcome,” she explained. “We have had daycares here. We have had seniors homes here. We have had homeless here. We have had police here. We have had everybody in between here and it’s just the community.”
Settee added that it was special to be able to gather again.
“We have been locked up for just about two years and we are human. We need social interaction and we need things like this, we need to talk to people and embrace people,” she said.
The process for planning the powwow begins in September or October after the committee takes the summer off.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into it. Our committee is definitely growing, which is a true blessing. We are always taking new community members for volunteers,” she said.
“It takes a lot of work, a lot of coordination, a fair amount of commitment.”
She said that they are already thinking about the next one on May 26, 2023.
“I have got to thank the dancers and the drummers because without them we wouldn’t be back. Our youth are our future and if you don’t get a chance to check us out this year May 26 Kinsmen Park Ball Diamond,” she said.