Conestoga's Aboriginal Services (Be-Dah-Bin Gamik) welcomed more than 2,000 guests to the college's Annual Traditional Pow Wow on February 8. Hosted at the Student Recreation Centre at the Doon campus, the event intended to build a stronger understanding of Indigenous cultures and a sense of community.
Conestoga’s tenth Annual Traditional Pow Wow welcomed more than 2,000 guests and featured 150 dancers.
A marriage of celebration and ceremony, the annual pow wow invited the public to celebrate with drumming, dancing, singing, traditional food, artisans and sacred fire. The event also offered an opportunity for the more than 500 Conestoga students that self-identify as Indigenous to come together in celebration, connect with the community, and practice traditions and teachings.
The full-day event was supported by a team of more than 30 volunteers from the local and college communities and featured 150 dancers from across Ontario, Quebec and Michigan.
“This is a milestone year for us,” said Myeengun Henry, manager of Aboriginal Services. “This year marks the tenth anniversary of our annual pow wow and Aboriginal Services at Conestoga.”
Be-Dah-Bin Gamik launched in 2010 to provide a direct link to resources for Indigenous students, including working with college administration to ensure student success, building community outreach and educating the college community about Indigenous Peoples.
Henry said the next ten years will see Be-Dah-Bin Gamik continue to expand services and build relationships with communities and other institutions. According to Henry, short-term plans include establishing a sacred garden at Doon, launching an Indigenous conference and developing Indigenous language classes. With offices already at the Doon and Waterloo campuses, Be-Dah-Bin Gamik is also looking to expand to the college’s Brantford location.
This year’s pow wow also held special significance in recognizing the role the community plays in helping the success of Be-Dah-Bin Gamik services and programs. Henry said the day’s celebrations honoured the involvement of elders as well as Fire Keeper Greg Ritchie who passed away last year.
“It takes a lot to make this work,” said Henry. “A lot of people commit their time and energy to help our students succeed.”
The Annual Traditional Pow Wow is sponsored by Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC), a long-term partner and supporter of the college, its programs and students.
Conestoga’s Be-Dah-Bin Gamik, a Place of New Beginning, provides services and ongoing supports for Indigenous students to assist with a smooth transition to college life. Services include a range of social and cultural events and activities, traditional counselling, and Elders-in-Residence programs.