On February 18, Conestoga’s Aboriginal Services welcomed more than 1,500 guests to the Recreation Centre at the Doon campus for the seventh annual Pow Wow. The event honoured Aboriginal culture in a full-day celebration that featured drumming, singing, dancing, artisans, traditional food and a sacred fire.
“The event is a marriage of celebration and ceremony that invites the college, the community and other nations into our home as the host community” said Christina Restoule, Pow Wow coordinator and administrative support for Aboriginal Services. “We have Pow Wows to build relationships, maintain partnerships and preserve the culture.”
The Pow Wow featured 100 dancers and 35 vendors. Another 30 students volunteered to support the event.
“We had a few firsts this year,” said Restoule. “We asked our volunteers to participate in one of eight Pow Wow 101 workshops ahead of the event so we could provide them with cultural understanding and awareness of the event. To make the experience more meaningful, we wanted them to understand Pow Wow protocol, the ceremonial aspects of the day and what they could expect to see throughout the event. It was also a chance to ask questions.”
Restoule said student engagement was a priority this year. In addition to the workshops, she noted this was the first time Conestoga's Pow Wow featured student-run vendor booths. Medical Office Practices student Matilda Henry managed a smoothie booth and the Aboriginal Student Circle managed concessions. Crafts made by participants in the Students Circle were for sale as well; for many students involved, this was their first time creating Aboriginal art.
It was also the first year a Conestoga student, Raven Morand, was named the head female dancer.
Restoule, a Conestoga alumna, has also been the head female dancer at Conestoga Pow Wows over the years. “It’s exciting, and very nostalgic, to see Raven move into that position,” said Restoule. “I’ve seen her come up in the community over the years and it’s special that she’s also a student here.”
Leading up to the Pow Wow, Morand and Restoule facilitated dance workshops at the college to help spectators understand the drumming they would hear and teach basic dance steps.
Restoule also coached Kristina Denny, a student in the Nursing program, who experienced her first dance at the Pow Wow. Restoule said the excitement of this first dance was a humble contrast to the dance partaken by Andrea Misquadis, an in-house elder at Conestoga, who has been ill, but was well enough to attend and complete her last dance. Misquadis has participated in all seven Pow Wows at the college.
Conestoga’s Pow Wow is the first of the season in this region of Ontario; others will take place throughout the province almost every weekend during the spring, summer and fall.
Conestoga's Be-Dah-Bin Gamik, a Place of New Beginnings, provides services for Aboriginal students at Conestoga, including those who are First Nations (status and non-status), Metis and Inuit. It is a welcoming environment that assists students with a smooth transition to college life by providing ongoing support. Services include social and cultural events and activities, un-traditional counselling services, Elders-in-Residence programs and the Aboriginal Student Association.
For more information, visit Aboriginal Services