The Aboriginal Student Association of York University (ASAY), in association with the Centre for Aboriginal Student Services, presents an exciting weekend devoted to celebrating indigeneity and academia at the 16th Annual York University All Nations Pow Wow & Gathering, Feb. 15 to 17 in Vari Hall at the Keele Campus. All the events are free and open to the public, and everyone is welcome.
The event brings together Indigenous communities from across the province with internal communities at York University. It features traditional drumming and dance performances, crafts, cuisine and discussion circles featuring Elders, academics, community members and students. Hundreds of participants are expected at this year’s event, which is one of the most widely anticipated pow wows of the year.
“This is the first pow wow to start the year,” says the Coordinator of Aboriginal Student Services at York University, Randy Pitawanakwat, “and many people say they look forward to attending it because of the events that have been planned. The ASAY student executive and volunteers have been hard at work to plan a family-friendly event.”
This year, says Pitawanakwat, the York University All Nations Pow Wow & Gathering merges culture with academia and the concurrent Knowledge In Sharing Stories (KISS) Conference.
“We expect 400 community members coming from primarily Ontario and all across Turtle Island,” says Amy Hull (Mi’kmaw + Inuit), a second-year student and active member in the indigenous community, both on- and off-campus and one of the event organizers. “Our focus is on indigenous inclusion, distinguishing between First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. The pow wow is a way for me to connect with and find my place within my community.”
On Thursday, Feb. 15, from 4 to 7pm (or later), the festivities begin with performances featuring Métis fiddlers and jigging. This performance features the fiddle, which was the instrument of choice used by the Métis, and performers are often accompanied by drumming, mouth harp and percussion using spoons and toe tapping. The Métis Jig is the traditional dance of the community. Best known is the Red River Jig, a fast-tempo, high-energy performance with complicated steps.
On Friday, Feb.16, the KISS Conference invites participants to come and talk with each other as part of a series of discussion circles on different topics. There will be three traditional discussion circles throughout the day devoted to sharing and teaching. The first focuses on arts and academia, the second explores land and activism, and the final circle covers language and culture. All of the KISS discussion circles will take place in 280N York Lanes at the Keele Campus. Everyone is encouraged to attend and participate; preregistration is not required.
The discussion circles will be followed by a feast featuring traditional Inuit cuisine. The feast will take place in 280N York Lanes from 5 to 8pm.
On Saturday, Feb. 17, the All Nations Pow Wow begins at 11:30am with the Grand Entry and a variety of drum performances. The host drum group Young Creek will perform along with invited drums Smoke Trail and Charging Horse and water drum Old Mush. Head female dancer Jennifer Meness, who is a York PhD student, will be joined by other pow wow dancers. Hoop Dancer, Ryan Runearth, will be attempting to break the world record for the number of hoops used in one dance.
Indigenous arts and crafts vendors will be set up for all three days in Vari Hall, Ross Link, Central Square and the Bear Pit areas.
The All Nations Pow Wow & Gathering will be followed by a feast and gala celebration in the Underground Restaurant. The event will take place from 5 to 8pm and will feature standup comedy by Manifest Destiny’s Child with catering provided by Hiawatha’s Catering.
For more information, visit the All Nations Pow Wow & Gathering Facebook page.
More about the history of Pow Wows
Pow wows in North America have a long history spanning hundreds of years. The dancing and drumming featured at pow wows has a dual purpose, serving as entertainment and as a key role in conveying traditional teachings. Performers dance for not only those who are present at the event, but for those who cannot dance, the frail, the elderly and the missing.
Prior to the First World War, Indigenous peoples in Canada were not permitted to attend these demonstrations of culture and expression. In 1951, changes to the Federal Indian Act allowed pow wows to go ahead without interference. Contemporary pow wows advance expression of Indigenous culture, knowledge and healing.