The First Nations University of Canada set to Celebrate 45th Annual Powwow

The Powwow is a pillar of indigeneity across Canada. A warm gathering of community – a way for different nations to gather and share song, experiences, make new friends and connect with old ones.

The First Nations University of Canada is hosting their spring Powwow – April 20th, and 21st in Regina.

Celebrations like this have a storied history in Canada – with the Indian act of 1876 outlawing the celebrations and prohibiting indigenous peoples across the country from wearing traditional outfits, and conduct spiritual and cultural ceremonies. Subsequent amendments to the act confirmed these bans – and further drove the oppression of indigenous peoples.

Here in Saskatchewan the Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation and the Thunderchild first nation held Powwows for more than 75 years all while under the rule of the Indian act. Communities continued to celebrate despite the racism and prejudice that was at the root of Canadian and American bans of these events. A steadfast showing of resolute strength in the face of a sinister attempt to eradicate indigenous culture. These nations refused to be oppressed.

It wasn’t until after the second world war that returning first nations veterans fought for the right to practice cultural traditions and ceremony – with their calls not really being answered until 1951 – when an amendment to the Indian act granted indigenous people the right to practice ceremony without the interference of the government. The scourge of residential schools and the attempts by Europeans to assimilate first nations peoples had already done much damage to the fabric of first nations culture. Indigenous children were ashamed to participate in Powwow, and elders afraid to practice ceremony for fear of persecution. It would be a decade until Powwows once again roared back to life across the prairies, becoming popular summer celebrations once again. An important piece of the indigenous fabric of Canada once again being embraced by communities – ushering in an opportunity for vibrant cross cultural exchange once again.

The First Nations University of Canada is set to celebrate it's 45th Spring Powwow.

Moving forward more than half a century later- to today – when the First Nations University of Canada is set to celebrate it’s spring Powwow – now in it’s 45th year.

Natalie Langan is one of the organizers of the event with the University. Her palpable excitement over this important event could be heard as she spoke with Good Morning Saskatchewan’s Gloria Evans.

“we are extremely excited and extremely busy. There is so much work that goes into this event. We are counting down,” said Langan.

The event brings dancers and groups from all across Turtle Island, with performers, elders and delegates coming from all across Canada and the United States.

“The First Nations University of Canada Powwow – kicks off Powwow season. We’ve been running the event for 45 years – it’s become very well known in North America. We have many people coming from across Canada, and many people coming from the United States. We have special guests flying in from abroad as well. We are thrilled to be hosting everyone.” The event welcomes more than 800 dancers and 20 drum groups – with champions from across the country in attendance. Notably several thousands in prize money is available to be won.

A men's traditional dancer at the FNUC Spring Powwow - photo courtesy the FNUC

Langan says the event isn’t just bout the singing and dancing of the Powwow trail – it has an amazing trade show attached to it. A trade show that became fully booked with vendors in record time.

“We have 50 booths with both first nations and non indigenous artisans. The trade show runs Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 11pm. From beaded moccasins, to clothing and jewelry to food – we have so much to offer.”

A ticket to the event gains you an opportunity to not only watch competitive song and dance – but attend the trade show as well.

“your admission will allow you to experience everything within the Powwow. You can watch the singing and dancing competitions, you can access the trade show, we even have an “in house” first nations food representative – so you’ll have opportunities to sample amazing indigenous cuisine. It’s going to be great.” Grand entry is held at noon and seven pm daily – giving you a chance to see everyone in full regalia. Additionally pipe ceremony at 8am each day will start the day in a good way, from the lower level of the Brandt Center.

Advanced weekend passes are available at Creeland Gas Station on 5th Avenue and Angus Street in Regina – or at the Brandt Center- admission is $10 for the day or $15 for the weekend.

“This is going to be an amazing weekend. Many people are working on this event to bring it to life. From sponsors to volunteers our entire team is going to make sure this is one pow wow you will remember. There is going to be singing, and dancing, and food, and laughter and visiting, ” added Natalie Langan.

The experience of culture she says is going to be unmissable.

The Powwow is an amazing testament to the strength of indigenous culture in the face of assimilation. With dance, song, and the beat of the drum reminding us of the undying spirit of indigenous people in Canada. This is set to be an incredible weekend with indigenous and non indigenous people alike gathering under the orange of the Brandt center to celebrate.

More information on the event can be found here.

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