Carl Garvin didn’t grow up with the Indigenous way of life, with pow wows, pipes and drumming – but an interactive cultural event on Wednesday gives him hope that this generation will be different.
“Our way of life is coming back,” he said.
“There’s a lot of good teachers, a lot of our elders, that depend on this way of life. A lot of singers, a lot of dancers that go on the pow wow trails.”
Garvin led a workshop on pow wow dancing and drumming at the Northern Prairie Indigenous Peoples Collective summer solstice gathering at the exhibition centre.
He first explained the two types of pow wows, competition and traditional, before demonstrations of various types of dances. This included traditional, fancy, warrior and jingle dress.
Participants grabbed hands at the end for a celebratory round dance.
“It’s an ongoing learning experience for me. I don’t think I’ll ever learn everything that needs to be learned,” said Garvin.
Although ceremony wasn’t present in his life growing up on Red Earth Cree Nation, he’s always spoken Cree fluently. It’s another aspect of his culture that he’s desperate to see continue.
“Our language needs to be intact because a lot of our young people are starting to speak English and can’t speak their own language.”
Janice Henry is the president of the new non-profit Northern Prairie Indigenous Peoples Collective, a local branch of the Association of Metis, Non and Status Indians Saskatchewan (AMNSIS).
“I’m feeling very content about how we’ve brought people together, the aspect of kinship,” she said.
The all-day event began with a tipi raising, followed by workshops throughout the building on moccasin making, beading, pointalism, fiddling and jigging.
“When I see those kids going up there to dance, and you know, some of them have never danced, but that music, they feel it,” said Henry.
“It just bring tears to my eyes because I’m so humbled by the people that are here and the heart that’s been put out in this initiative.”
The organization aims to enhance pre-existing resources by including Indigenous people in issues that impact them, such as justice, health and education.
“You see the crime rates in Prince Albert. It’s no secret that we need to do something, so why not start at the very basic route of culture and self-identity?” questioned Henry.
“If we provided these children and youth with healthy alternatives, then their life could be very different.”
Henry watched as youth learned the basics of Metis jigging from Modeste McKenzie, along with a presentation by fiddler JJ Lavallee.
Lavallee spoke about the history of Red River Jig, believed to come from gatherings at the Forks in Manitoba in the 1800s.
Participants also had the opportunity to decorate their own Metis wooden spoons.
“Nowadays we use wooden spoons, but in the olden days, the Metis would have kitchen parties in their home and they would use whatever things they have for musical instruments,” explained Kim Conarroe.
Traditionally, she said, the Metis would hold two metal spoons with the concave sides facing outwards to make music.
“I love sharing my knowledge of my culture with other people. Some people don’t know what they are, and it’s rewarding,” said Conarroe.
Henry said over 200 people attended the gathering by mid-afternoon, including a daycare.
The organization hopes to host the summer solstice event in June in future years.