Four Directions takes new approach

New cultural event replaces Queen's annual event


In order to alleviate racism, you need to educate.

That was the focus of last week’s Celebration of Indigenous Art, Music and Dance hosted by Four Directions Aboriginal Centre (FDAC), according to Director Janice Hill.

“I guess what we’re trying to do is dispel any ignorance and myth around our cultures,” she said. “It’s to let people know how accessible our culture is … our people love to sing, dance and share food and share stories and have fun.”

For the past five years, FDAC held a fall powwow — consisting of traditional dance, storytelling and musical performances — at Agnes-Benidickson Field in order to showcase Aboriginal cultures at Queen’s.

This year’s celebration, intended to replace the annual Fall event, aimed to increase awareness of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people on campus, through interactive education, something the previous event lacked.

The celebration, which took place on March 16 in the main ARC gymnasium, featured performance groups from Toronto and Ottawa, as well as food vendors, stone carvers and drum makers.

What made the event unique, though, according to Hill, was that visitors were given explanations for traditional regalia and rituals.

“The [leaders] explained each of the dances and each of the separate regalia so people could get an understanding of why they are wearing elaborate feathers, because there’s meaning behind all of it and they were careful to explain it all out,” she said, adding that audience members were encouraged to participate with the performers.

“We also had the Inuit performers … and they demonstrated throat singing [and] they talked about the purpose of throat singing and they brought members of the audience up and encouraged them to do it.”

Hill, who has been involved with Four Directions since 2010, said a part of the reason why FDAC opted for a different approach was to get more people to participate in the event.

“Looking at what our mandate is ... we didn’t feel like we were meeting the audience we were hoping to with the powwow and that’s why we decided to do something new this time,” she said.

In total, around 20 people participated in the event, which drew a crowd of 100 students and community members. Hill said the turnout was lower than expected. In the past, the powwows at Queen’s have drawn crowds of around 1,000, but the event in 2011 drew about half of that.


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