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The Annual Youth Exhibition Powwow returns to Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus on Thursday for its 11th year in celebration of Indigenous culture.
The Powwow is a high-energy, family-friendly event that draws participants from across the B.C. interior. Dancers and accompanying drummers perform in a variety of dance categories including grass, fancy, chicken, jingle and traditional.
The Powwow begins at 9 a.m. with a Grand Entry during which College and community members will carry in flags followed by Chiefs, Princesses, Elders, Powwow organizers and dancers. The Grand Entry also includes a moment of honour for veterans. This year, Elder Grouse Barnes of the Westbank First Nation will give the traditional welcome.
“One of our key directions at Okanagan College is working with and learning from the Indigenous community,” says College President Jim Hamilton. “The Powwow supports Indigenization at the College and continues to be one of the most meaningful and well-attended events we have to celebrate Indigenous knowledge and culture on campus.”
Last year approximately 1,000 students, faculty and staff along with members of the general public took part. This year, more than 800 students from various private, band and public schools from across the interior have been invited to attend the exhibition.
“The Powwow is an excellent way to introduce students to the traditional knowledge and ways of doing of the Indigenous peoples of our region and a way to support and engage the community with Indigenous culture,” says Jewell Gillies, Aboriginal Transition Program Advisor.
“We continue to add to the educational component and the local school districts see this as a great opportunity for students. We are excited to welcome those who haven’t experienced a Powwow before.”
Elder Richard Jackson Jr. of the Lower Nicola Indian Band will reprise his role as Master of Ceremony and Arena Director, a role he’s held for the past 11 years. This year, he will also be joined by various traditional dancers who will take time at intervals to explain the meaning behind various aspects of the Powwow and the history and origin of dance styles, for those who haven’t attended before.
Those who attended last year will spot a very special fixture on the field, back for its second year – an Eagle Feather Staff.
At last year’s Powwow, Elder Jackson and Noel Ferguson of the Canoe Creek Frist Nation and Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society presented Okanagan College with the Staff to recognize the College’s continued efforts to embrace Indigenous culture and support of the educational journey of Indigenous learners.
The Eagle Staff lead the processional at each of the College’s graduation ceremonies this year and will continue to be present at major events.
Powwow attendees will be treated to a tasty lunch prepared by Deli City and can enjoy shopping at the many vendors on location selling jewelry, artwork, soaps, moccasins, jams, lotions and more. Additionally, there will be a 50/50 and a raffle draw available with proceeds going to financial awards for Indigenous students at OC.
The College has one of the fastest growing rates of Aboriginal student participation of any post-secondary institution in B.C. In 2018, the College provided educational programming to more than 1,800 Aboriginal students.
The festivities run from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 19 in the Kelowna campus courtyard. Attendance is free and open to the public.
For those who cannot attend, portions of the event will be livestreamed on the College’s Facebook page.