The 10th Annual Youth Exhibition Powwow brought the courtyard at Okanagan College to life.
The sound of beating drums, jingling bells and singing welcomed hundreds of people to learn from the Indigenous celebration of culture.
The milestone was marked with a special ceremony that honoured two Indigenous community members, 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. The special blanket ceremony is one where they were wrapped in traditional Pendleton blankets as a physical and spiritual symbol of respect.
Jackson Jr. created and presented the Okanagan College with an Eagle Staff to be used in convocations, and Aboriginal ceremonies and events on campus.
“To make one for this college, it’s an honour to have this come here, and it is going to stay here forever, we need more of our cultural traditions as the Eagle Staff comes into the grand entry, it is very sacred,” Jackson Jr. said. “It was an honour to be asked to do something like this, I put prayers into it, everything I put on here, I put prayers, good prayers that this will be seen in a good way. This is a great way to represent our people.”
The traditional eagle staff was created with good prayers and with 40 eagle feathers and a full tail on the top. There are bells at the bottom representing the jingle girl dancers and healing. There are also white and black horse-hair tied in tassels to the top, representing the man and a medicine wheel on each side.
Buckskin was carefully wrapped around the staff represents the female and the red background red represents the Red Road. Jackson Jr. partnered with the Conservation Officer Service to gather the feathers for the Eagle Staff.
Powwows traditionally begin with a grand entry of an Eagle staff which is very respected among Indigenous and First Nations people.
The annual event was created by Jewell Gillies, aboriginal transitions planner at Okanagan College, Kelowna campus who has dedicated herself to developing the event.
“The idea (of this event) is to bring out the community and feel a sense of belonging at post secondary and feel like they can own their identity as an Indigenous person and a post secondary student and that those can live breathe and coexist in the same place in a really beautiful way,” Gillies said.
“We have folks from all different backgrounds and even if it’s only ten minutes away and even if it is only a short time it’s important to have those connections….”It’s about building bridges with the non-Indigenous community.”
Dancer, Peter White, Night Runner, Yaquan Nukiy band travels to participate in Powwows.
“Powwows are one part of our culture, this is more of a celebration of life and bringing people together and having fun, that is what it is about,” Night Runner said.
The dance he performed to the crowds had a special meaning while he was draped in materials that include otter and mirrors.
“The story comes from the Sioux people in the plains. It is a war dance and what they would do is go to war and hunt to provide for the community or they would hunt and tell the stories of what they had seen. It’s one of the oldest dances and has been around for centuries. We all have our own stories we tell, other dancers have different stories and you can depict what they are saying…I am wearing an otter pelt which (is meant to) remind adults to be playful as you watch kids they have fun as become adult have fun life is short and the mirrors reflect off bad energy, if someone has or sends bad energy it will reflect that energy off of you,” he said.
Three drum circles beat their hearts and prayers including William Robbins, Okanagan Indian Band in Vernon
“We sing for the community and students to give them a taste of our culture and singing,”said Robbins that has now brought his son, Cohen into the drum circle. “It was given to me by my father that passed away two years ago and it was left in my hands to take care of it and to be the drum holder, I have to be responsible for it and to care for it… It’s the group’s drum we are like brothers, we all take care of it (the drum).”
The tenth annual Powwow brought together bands from across the province to celebrate the Indigenous cultures and bring awareness and visibility. Live streams of the dances are available on Okanagan College’s Facebook page.
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