Powwow a success

Event celebrates Aboriginal people’s culture and heritage

The fourth annual educational powwow
The fourth annual educational powwow

fourth year, the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre brought something new to the table.

“Celebrating the Harvest of the Three Sisters” was the theme of Saturday’s event.

According to a Haudenosaunee story, three sisters, who are different from one another, must stay together to remain strong. The Haudenosaunee people plant corn, beans and squash next to each other so they can all help each other grow, mirroring the story of the three sisters.

The Three Sisters soup, which was prepared by Sodexo Food Services and made with all three crops, was offered for the first time this year.

Traditionally the three ingredients had useful purposes in farming. The corn stalks were able to be used as poles for the beans, the beans added nitrogen into the soil and the squash’s leaves covered the ground, making the soil more fertile.

Last Saturday’s educational powwow was organized by Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre and took place at Agnes Benidickson Field.

Michela Ferguson, powwow coordinator, said the event incorporates many aspects of the Aboriginal people’s culture.

“The educational powwow features the Aboriginal people’s culture, music and dancing. It is a free event and everyone is welcome to come to it,” she said, adding that, participants were encouraged to make a donation to the AMS Food Centre; a service run through the Social Issues Commission, offering students a confidential food service in a supportive environment.

This year’s powwow drew in a large crowd. A bonfire was blazing beside the field, which was packed with more than 1,500 people passing through, while others watched and cheered on the dancers.

Ferguson said the dancers made their grand entry at noon. No pictures were allowed to be taken during certain performances.

Ferguson said once the dancers entered the field, they showed off a number of traditional dances. “The powwow has participatory dances, such as Inter-Tribals, and everybody is encouraged to come and dance,” she said, adding that other styles of dance include men’s grass, men’s traditional, men’s fancy traditional, women’s traditional, women’s fancy shawl and women’s jingle.

These forms of dance are all symbolic. For example, the elaborate dancing in the women’s fancy shawl dance is said to represent a butterfly.

Ferguson said dancers come from all over Ontario to participate in the powwow.

“We have a wide range of dancers from the greater eastern Ontario community so places like Ottawa, Kingston and Cornwall,” she said.

The event also featured a performance group made up of youth who performed the legend of the Three Sisters and the Iroquois creation story.

In addition to the performances, the powwow also featured a tent with arts and crafts activities for children as well as tents which housed Aboriginal artwork and jewelry for sale.

Janice Hill, director of Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, said that even with so much going on, the Three Sister’s vegetable medley remained central to the celebrations.

She said the Centre planted and grew their crops on a garden granted by Reg Pierce, executive chef at Queen’s University, as part of MyFarm. Pierce owns MyFarm, which is a property east of Gananoque and about half an hour away from Kingston. He has partnered with Queen’s and Sodexo.

Both Sodexo and Four Directions have been provided with part of the land. This was Four Directions’ first year planting on MyFarm and next year crops will be harvested for seeds.

Hill said the event cost over $20,000 and that Four Directions received support from numerous organizations including Queen’s and the AMS.

“The Educational powwow is important because it gives people a greater understanding of the Aboriginal people,” she said.

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