‘We have to do something to keep the momentum going’

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

Heart of the Youth Pow Wow taking a virtual approach in 2021

The Heart of the Youth Pow Wow is one of many events that needed to go back to the drawing board after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

When the Pow Wow first started in 2018, elder Liz Settee, said they were expecting 900 people to gather for the inaugural event. She estimates more than double that attended. A year later more than 3,400 people attended.

“It’s something that has really just totally taken off,” said Settee, who served as one of the lead organizers. 

The event organizers were unable to hold an event in 2020 due to the pandemic. This year, they wanted to make sure they could still do something. 

“The committee felt that we have to do something to keep the momentum going,” Settee said.

Next year the committee hopes to hold the event at Kinsmen Park. The group has hired local video production company Big Drum Media to produce a virtual pow wow that will be shown to students in Saskatchewan Rivers and Prince Albert Catholic school divisions. The final cut will be broadcast for other community members to watch as well. 

Settee said that there’s going to be more of teach-in aspect to the video, highlighting the importance of Pow Wows and everything that goes along with them. The video will feature testimonials from youth that have attended a Pow Wows, and certain protocols that would be shared at an in-person gathering,

There will also be segment on tipi teachings, where a group will be putting a tipi up. 

“We’re hoping to use it as a teaching tool afterwards as well so when we do have the next live Pow Wow people will have more understanding of it,” Settee said about the video.

One section of the video will have a drummer or drum group playing and give students and viewers the opportunity to get up and dance around the room. 

“Lets say in the classroom if they want to get up and do an intertribal, then they can just get up and dance in the classroom to the beat of the drum,” Settee said. 

The committee is also looking to the future with this video, feeling it needs to be inclusive for years to come. The video will feature a jingle dancer but the language will be non-binary, meaning not exclusively masculine or feminine. 

“We’re aiming for youth, and if our youth are two-spirited we have to respect that,” Settee said. 

Settee explained that traditionally there was a women’s jingle dance or a men’s grass dance at Pow Wows. Instead the group will be removing the gender terms in front of each making it inclusive for everyone.

“It’s just going to be a jingle dance (and) it’s just going to be grass dance,” Settee said.

“I feel as a society we’re being more respectful to that and traditionally two-spirited people used to be celebrated not shunned so we want to make them feel like they’re a part of it and welcome as well,” she added. 

The committee is renting out E.A. Rawlinson to film dancers, and the grand entry. Settee said the group hasn’t nailed down a filming date yet, but they’re hoping community members such as Mayor Greg Dionne, police Chief Jon Bergen, and other active members of the community will be available to take part in the pre-recorded grand entry. 

The group has ordered face masks with their logo printed on for everyone involved. People will also be spaced out in the grand entry. The committee is also planning on scheduling dancers to come in at different times of the day to avoid having too many people in the same space at the same time. 

The group is also selling three different choices of calendars for $25 each, $10 of the proceeds from each calendar sale will go towards the costs associated with the Pow Wow.

Although the Pow Wow won’t be in-person, there are still bills to pay. Settee explained the committee will need to pay for things like filming and editing of the video, rental space at the E.A. Rawlinson, and honorariums and gifts for elders.

Those interested in purchasing a calendar can email Settee at emsettee.paopi@sasktel.net. The committee is hoping to release the video on May 28.

“Things are definitely moving forward. We’re going to try and have a central location where this broadcast is available to anybody in the community because it is a community Pow Wow,” Settee explained.