Conestoga news

March 13, 2014 11:07 AM

Annual pow wow celebrates aboriginal culture

Drums could be heard far beyond the Recreation Centre at Conestoga’s Doon campus as the fourth annual traditional pow wow took place on Saturday, February 22.

The full-day celebration hosted by the college’s Aboriginal Services department featured dancers, drums and live music as well as information booths and vendors selling traditional clothing and crafts such as dream catchers and jewelry.

Hundreds of dancers from as far away as Manitoulin Island, Windsor, Toronto, North Bay and Detroit filled the Recreation Centre with colour and movement as they performed ceremonial dances in traditional garb, providing visitors with the opportunity to experience aboriginal culture.

A sacred fire was set up outside the venue for traditional medicine and prayers.

According to organizer Myeengun Henry, manager of Aboriginal Services, the annual event attracted record attendance this year, with more than 2,000 guests and participants.

Staged in February each year, Conestoga’s pow wow provides participants and guests with a welcome break from the winter weather.

“Pow wows are part of a regular lifestyle for aboriginal people,” said Henry. “We have dancers that travel all summer to go to different pow wows every weekend. We have our event early in the year because there are no other pow wows at that time, and the dancers want to dance. The vendors have a supply of crafts built up, and people just want to get together that time of year.”

The event is intended to build a stronger understanding of aboriginal culture and a sense of community.

More than 500 Conestoga students self-identify as aboriginal. The Aboriginal Services office provides a warm, welcoming and comfortable environment that assists these students with a smooth transition to college life by providing ongoing student support.

Services include a range of social and cultural events and activities, traditional counselling services and elders-in-residence programs as well as an Aboriginal Student Association.

For more information, visit Aboriginal Services

Story and photos by Laurie Snell, second-year student in Conestoga’s Print Journalism program.