First Na­tions pow wow finds warmth in city

Moose Jaw Express.com - - Front Page - Singers and drum­mers By Ron Wal­ter For Moose Jaw Ex­press Pho­tos by Ron Wal­ter

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 ron­joy@sask­tel.net

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