Traditional drummers, a Powwow and a delicious feast marked ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ tribal school’s Indigenous Day celebrations.
The school hosted its celebrations a day early as the students and teachers had Friday off to mark the national occasion. Adult members and elders of the four local First Nations attended; from the Tsawout, Tseycum, Pauquachin and Tsartlip. Children from those communities attend the school and it was a chance for them to join together to celebrate their heritage.
A team from the school, including Maryann Gladstone, Robin Cooper and Nancy Eassie, worked with the community group, YellowWolf Powwow Committee, to put on the celebration. Angel Sampson was the lead organizer and worked with the committee and her family members to put on a memorable event.
The Powwow took place on the school’s soccer pitches and, thanks to funding from the First Nations Health Authority, also had mini golf, bouncy castles and a PA system, adding to the festival atmosphere. Sampson feels the event complements the work the school already does.
“They have a language immersion program here, children from the day-care right the way to high school are involved in the language, drumming and singing and doing so much that is a part of our culture. We’re very fortunate that people from the community get involved with the school programs and that there are teachers that know about our background and history, and what direction they want the children to go in,” said Sampson.
Sampson’s brother, Muz, led proceedings. He welcomed everyone, gave a few words of context and gently marshalled the children through the different stages of the Powwow.
Three traditional singing and drumming groups performed, attracting interested children who came and watched.
The students sat in a single line that made up three sides of a square, with the fourth side taken up by the drumming groups. The centre of the square was the dancing area. A group of young students wearing colourful traditional dress started dancing and were quickly joined by teachers and students who followed them around in a circular motion. The students watched, then silently and without prompting, got up and ran to join in when the moment took them. At some point every student was dancing, and children would drift back to the edges of the square for a rest before re-joining the throng once they had caught their breath. The Powwow had a joyous vibe, with the students dancing under a bright blue sky, before a backdrop of tall trees and mountains.
Afterwards, the children returned to their classrooms and the adults enjoyed a lunch made by the community and Sampson’s family.
“Every dancer has their own dance style, there are traditional dancers, jingle dress dancers and I think I saw fancy dancers,” says Sampson. “Every dance style has its history and its story, and everybody’s got their own reasons for why they were drawn to that particular dance style. More than anything, as a young person, they dance for those who can’t dance anymore.”
For more information on ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ tribal school visit wsanecschoolboard.ca.