Sixth annual Aboriginal Awareness Days & Pow Wow a big success

The Aboriginal Students Association at York hosted its sixth annual Aboriginal Awareness Days & Pow Wow event, titled "Rekindling the Fire", on February 28, 29 & March 1 at York’s Keele and Glendon campuses.

Hundreds of people attended the three-day event featuring workshops as well as a traditional pow wow with performances by 41 dancers, including World Champion Hoop Dancer Lisa Odjig, and eight drum groups.

Right: Derrick Bressette, head male dancer at the pow wow

The theme of the event – Rekindling the Fire – was chosen to capture the essence of current issues in the public eye and to raise awareness of those issues in a positive light. Many of the issues have been around for a long time, but have recently re-emerged gaining attention in the mass media. Organizers hoped the event could be viewed as a "re-birth" of the issues with the hope that a much more positive outcome would emerge.

Jacqui Lavalley, York MES student and Ojibwe traditional grandmother, teacher, singer, dancer and storyteller, began the opening ceremonies at the York’s Keele campus with a traditional Anishinaabe hand drum song and prayer. Following brief welcoming remarks from event hosts and guests, various pow wow dance styles were demonstrated by dancers such as the men’s Fancy and Grass Dancers, and women’s Jingle Dress and Fancy Shawl Dancers performing to the beat of drum group, Young Gunz.

The highlight of the afternoon was a spectacular dance performance by Odjig, a two-time world champion hoop dancer and the first woman to win the title. Odjig, who hails from the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island, has performed across Canada and in Italy, France, Germany, Korea, Mexico, the US and the Netherlands.

The second day, consisted of workshops at Glendon campus along with a performance by the Aztec Dance group.

Workshop topics included:

  • Haudenosaunee traditions
  • Aboriginal youth issues
  • Environmental issues
  • Six Nations land reclamation
  • Government and Aboriginal people’s relations
  • Aboriginal peoples and the law
  • Six Nations negotiations

The event wrapped up with a traditional pow wow on the Saturday in Vari Hall at the Keele campus. The grand entry began at 12:30pm with a procession of eagle staff and flag carriers, elders and dancers. Odjig returned to provide a second hoop-dance performance to the delight of a crowd of about 250 people.

Left: Lisa Odjig, world champion hoop dancer performing at the pow wow

At the conclusion of the pow wow, approximately 150 guests and participants were treated to a dinner provided by Michelangelo’s Restaurant in Atkinson College.

Native arts & crafts vendors were also on hand for the three days and were set up in the Central Square and Bear Pit areas. Plenty of hand-made items were available for sale such as porcupine quill boxes, Navajo turquoise & silver jewellery, soapstone carvings, artwork, moccasins, beadwork and much more.

The Aboriginal Awareness Days & Pow Wow event, organized by the Aboriginal Students Association at York and the Office of Aboriginal Student Community, is held annually to create awareness and promote Aboriginal culture to the York community.

The sixth annual Aboriginal Awareness Days & Pow Wow was sponsored by the York University Alumni Office.