Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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First Nations celebration extends cultural hand

By Heather Polischuk, The Leader-Post

Powwows are a focal point for First Nations culture, a chance for families and friends to gather to celebrate who they are and to share in the richness of a history and culture.

But organizers of this year's First Nations University of Canada Spring Celebration Powwow - being held April 12 and 13 at the Brandt Centre - would love to see people from other cultural backgrounds share in the event as well.

"We want to make sure that ... everybody understands, that they know about it and that they're welcome ...," said Racelle Kooy, spokeswoman for FNUniv. "If (information about the event is) in your community centre, in your school, in your favourite coffee shop, hopefully you will feel more drawn to go."

Thousands of people typically flock to the annual event - now in its 36th year - to check out the dancing, singing, drumming, trade show and the wide array of colourful outfits carefully created by the wearers as a symbol of their own unique background.

Typically people come from various locations in Canada and the United States for the uncommonly large powwow, some travelling hours to take part.

"It's not the very, very first (powwow of the year) but it's seen as a kickoff ...," said Kooy. "It may be a competitive powwow, but there are certainly spiritual aspects to it ... Powwow dancers don't put their regalia together for prize money. They put their regalia together to honour their traditions. They put their regalia together to honour their family, their lineage and where they want to be and what speaks to them as an individual. There's a part of living culture in regalia because we're not stuck in the past, we're here today."

And it's more than people of First Nations background who can tap into the power of the powwow. Kooy noted Access7's broadcasts of portions of the event are so popular that it's an indication that more than First Nations people are watching. Kooy and the other organizers would like to see those people coming down to see it in person.

"Powwow comes really from the Prairies," she said. "You find it across the country, but it's really rooted here in the Prairies, so for people to understand where they live and the fabric of what's part of it, it's a really accessible way to do that ...

"It's one of those things that's worth witnessing. It's when you see a hockey rink filled up with dancers, that's a statement of strength and beauty. It's not anybody getting in anybody else's space about politics or whatever, it's putting everything aside and celebrating ancestry and heritage. I love that."

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