Okanagan College will host its 10th Annual Youth Exhibition Powwow on Sept. 20, once again bringing hundreds of dancers to the Kelowna campus for a celebration of Indigenous culture.
To mark the ten-year milestone, this year’s event will also feature a special ceremony honouring two Indigenous community members who have played integral roles in its success over the past decade.
Elder Richard Jackson Jr. of the Lower Nicola Indian Band and Noel Ferguson of the Canoe Creek First Nation and Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society will reprise their roles this year as Master of Ceremony and Arena Director, roles they’ve held for the past ten years.
In acknowledgement of their long-time involvement, college officials will honour Jackson and Ferguson during a special blanket ceremony that morning. Jackson and Ferguson will be wrapped in traditional Pendleton blankets as a physical and spiritual symbol of respect.
“Working with and learning from the Indigenous community is one of our key directions at Okanagan College,” said college president Jim Hamilton. “The Powwow has been and continues to be a very meaningful and significant opportunity to strengthen relationships and celebrate Indigenous knowledge and culture on campus.
“On behalf of Okanagan College, I’d like to extend our deepest thanks to Richard and Noel for their leadership, energy and input over the years – and to everyone who has helped to make this event such a vibrant and well-attended celebration.”
The blanket ceremony isn’t the only special ceremony to take place at the event.
Shortly after Jackson and Ferguson are wrapped, the duo will present Okanagan College with an Eagle Staff as a symbol of respect and to recognize the College’s continued efforts to embrace Aboriginal culture and values and support the educational journey of Aboriginal learners.
The Annual Exhibition Powwow is a high-energy, family-friendly event that draws participants from across the British Columbia interior. Dancers and accompanying drummers perform in a variety of dance categories including grass, fancy, chicken, jingle and traditional. This year the invited drum groups include Birch Creek, The Northern Tribes and Red Spotted Horse.
Attendees will be treated to a fan-favourite lunch of Deconstructed Indian Tacos – prepared and served by the college’s Culinary Arts team – and enjoy shopping at the many vendors on location selling jewelry, artwork, soaps, moccasins, jams, lotions and more. Additionally, there will be a 50/50 and a raffle draw available with the proceeds going to financial awards for Indigenous students at OC.
Last year approximately 1,000 students, faculty and staff along with members of the general community enjoyed this high-profile event that showcases Aboriginal culture and dance. This year, more than 600 students from various private band and public schools from across the interior have been invited to attend the exhibition.
The College has one of the fastest growing rates of Aboriginal student participation of any post-secondary institution in B.C. In 2017, the College provided educational programming to more than 1,745 Aboriginal students.
“Powwows are intended to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members together and highlight the richness of our culture,” said the college’s Aboriginal services coordinator Anthony Isaac. “We host many cultural events throughout the year and believe that the more we can do to increase people’s understanding of our ways of knowing and doing, the more we create a sense of belonging and inclusiveness for current and future OC students.”
The festivities run from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sept. 20 in the Kelowna campus courtyard, with the special ceremonies happening first thing in the morning. Attendance is free and open to the public.
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