University’s seventh annual powwow a success

Focusing on residential school survivors, powwow provides glimpse at indigenous cultures

Click to enlarge. The University of Winnipeg annual powwow brought together dancers, drummers and performers from indigenous communities across Canada. Mark Reimer
Albert Kirkrude. Mark Reimer
Chris Coniga. Mark Reimer
Danielle Longclaws. Mark Reimer
Kolga Keeper Mark Reimer

The University of Winnipeg’s campus was filled with colourful feathers, the rolling sound of drums and enormous pride as aboriginal dancers, drummers and singers converged Friday, Mar. 6 for the annual powwow.

At the Duckworth Centre’s gym, the audience was treated to an afternoon and evening of traditional aboriginal festivities.

“I feel like we attracted good energy,” said Lyndi Courchene, the University of Winnipeg Aboriginal Student Council’s (ASC) powwow co-ordinator.

Having planned this powwow since October, Courchene said she was pleased with the outcome.

The day began with the Grand Entry, where aboriginal veterans, elders and university representatives led a procession dressed in traditional regalia.

Christian Swan is a member of a drumming and singing group called the First Nations Singers.

Along with 13 other drumming groups, the First Nations Singers sat around a single drum throughout the powwow and provided a beat for the dancers that filled the gym floor.

“It’s my culture, it’s something I enjoy doing,” said Swan, adding that he tries to attend as many powwows as he can.

“They happen pretty much every weekend in the summer,” he said.

This was the seventh annual powwow held by the ASC. It is held every year on the first Friday of March.

This year the focus was on residential school survivors and featured a number of speakers who had gone to the schools.

“We focused on going beyond the schools,” Courchene said. “The speakers didn’t talk about personal experiences, but rather about their walk of life.”

Compared with ceremonies like sweat lodges and sun dances, the powwow is a more festive aspect of the aboriginal culture and is usually open to everyone.

Courchene said that events like this powwow are a great way for non-aboriginal people to learn about indigenous cultures.

Rob Lopes works with young drummers in the West Broadway community. He is not aboriginal, but loves to go out to aboriginal events that feature drumming.

“I’m personally a huge fan of drumming and singing; I have huge respect for what they are able to do with their voices,” he said.

“Unfortunately a lot of non-aboriginal people don’t seem interested and I think they are missing out.”

Starting at 1 p.m., the event drew a large crowd that filled the bleachers on one side of the gym.

It featured dancing and drumming until 5 p.m. when supper was served, and then continued with more festivities after 7 p.m.

Published in Volume 63, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 12, 2009)

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