The local high school’s Indigenous Youth Council’s 2023 Annual Pow Wow was officially a success.
Johna Hupfield, Indigenous Studies Teacher-Educator and Department Head says the Pow Wow is organized and planned by the youth council, called Oshkishkode (meaning New-Fire).
“Typically we have four youths that volunteer themselves to coordinate the Pow Wow and they support each other, but they usually pick a student who’s younger than them to mentor them and share the skill set that they’re focused on learning to host a Pow Wow. It’s part of our coursework in whatever courses they’re taking with the Indigenous studies department,” she says.
Hupfield, who also serves as the facilitator and support teacher for Oshkishkode, says with luck, those skills will also complement something else they’re doing in another course at the high school.
She says the whole event is usually student organized and planned but this year teachers helped a little. Hupfield says that is because this is the first year they’ve facilitated and coordinated the Pow Wow since before the pandemic.
“So they haven’t had any mentorship, and this is the first year we’ve had teachers support in facilitating, like just putting up the canopies and for teachers to learn more about some of the roles that the students are doing. Like working inside of where the drums are being organized, or MC or the arena director, those sorts of things,” she says.
Wasauksing First Nation Chief Warren Tabobondung says the event this past Friday (June 2) was well attended, which he says is always good to see.
“The work of the Pow Wow’s are so significant to us. It works on our healing and our future. When I see the young ones dancing today it reminds me of when I was that young, but it also reinforces the future for me as a Chief,” he says.
Tabobondung says he sees the First Nation’s knowledge and culture are being passed.
“And it’s not only our children, but also non-indigenous children that are dancing too and that’s so wonderful. I think that’s so important. I spoke today about building a relationship and years ago with the settler nations. We had to build that relationship first and again. To see the little ones dancing together, it’s beautiful,” he says.
Speaking at the event, Parry Sound Highschool and Parry Sound Intermediate Principal John Staba says as a new Principal, this was his first Pow Wow here at the school. However, he says he’s definitely heard of past events and how wonderful they have been as an annual tradition.
“I’m really excited, pleased and happy to be part of this celebration today. I genuinely feel like I’m meeting some very special folks from the surrounding communities. My goal since I’ve arrived as a principal has been to really build connections, relationships and trust with all five First Nations communities of students that attend our school,” he says.
Staba says the Pow Wow is just one way the community can celebrate together.