First Nations pow wow finds warmth in city
The first pow wow in Moose Jaw in 21 years found a warm reception from the sun and the people of the city. Two to three hundred people gathered at any one time around the dance site at Gutheridge Field on South Hill for the celebration organized by the Wakamow Aboriginal Community Association (WACA). It was a come and go event for some with visitors staying a few hours before packing away lawn chairs and leaving. “It’s a beautiful day,” said Isabelle Hanson, president of WACA. The 12-member pow wow committee worked hard to get the event up and running, she said. “Today our pow wow is called the Wakamow Aboriginal Community Association honouring our youth’s traditional pow wow,” she said. “What we are doing is honouring youth who have been in a dance group with Empire Community School. There’s a group of approximately 20 of them under Raven Thunder Sky and principal Bev McIntyre.” Thunder Shy is a member of WACA. First Nations people from neighbouring communities and residents of Moose Jaw were invited to the celebration. A grand entry with the deputy mayor, an MLA, a member of the RCMP, city police and Emergency Services was held at noon. Earlier, a pipe ceremony asked a blessing for the day and safe travel of visitors. “This is an awesome spot,” said Hanson of the track and field grounds converted for the one-day pow wow. More than 60 dancers celebrated the day. The concession served bannock burgers and soup with bannock. During the eight-hours of dancing two Moose Jaw pow wow dancers were recognized for their work in dancing and for the many years living in this city. A special prayer was said for Viola Fisher and Wayne Henry by elder Margaret Rocklander, who then led the Fisher family dancers in a dance. Fisher and Henry arrived in Moose Jaw from Ontario in 1970, one of the first Aboriginal families to move here. They knew nothing about pow wow dancing, but their interest led them to recruit a teacher from Frog Lake, Alta. They organized a pow wow group — The Fisher Family — and learned to make their own elaborate and detailed dance wear. The group has danced at many pow wows. “The pow wow is a celebration — a social gathering — where people come for tradition that needs to be followed,” said Hanson. “For the most part it is just about coming out, having fun, meeting your friends and for the dancers dancing and for the singers coming and singing and having a really good time.” “The pow wow goes back a long time. It’s been documented that after a successful buffalo hunt people would come together and dance and celebrate the hunt like a pow wow.” Bad feelings about the financially unsuccessful pow wow here in 1991 organized by people from eastern Saskatchewan haunted the committee’s work. “People have always talked about that pow wow and discouraged us from trying to have one,” she said. “This is a new day. We’re a new group. We live here in the city and we want to think positive thoughts.” The pow wow is WACA’s biggest event of the summer. WACA also has programs for children, women and youth leadership.
Ron Walter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org