Third powwow’s the charm

Third-annual event relies on volunteers to keep it alive

A participant at last year’s educational powwow.
A participant at last year’s educational powwow.

Despite severe budget cuts over the past two years, the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre will host its annual educational powwow tomorrow at Agnes Benedickson Field.

Now in its third year, the event was planned with a budget of $15,000—$25,000 less than when it began in 2007.

Shauna Shiels, Queen’s Native Students’ Association vice-president and a member of the powwow planning committee, said the powwow is only able to continue each year because the committee plans early and gets many volunteers.

“The planning process for next year’s powwow will begin two weeks after this year’s powwow.

Right away, the organizing committee will discuss what worked well and what things need to be changed for next year,” she said. “By January, a theme will be decided upon and regular meetings will resume.”

Shiels said the powwow committee applied for funding with the offices of the Associate Vice-Principal and Dean of Student Affairs, Vice-Principal (Academic) and the Principal.

“Although navigating the bureaucratic process isn’t pleasant, we were fortunate enough to receive $5,000 from each office this year,” she said.

The money goes toward renting the tents and shelter they require from the University and to compensate the travel costs of traditional Aboriginal dancers, vendors and elders who participate in the powwow, she said.

The University has less money that can be allocated to non-academic activities because of the 15 per cent budget cut for the next three years announced in January, Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said.

“The fact that there’s still money being found is a sign of how valued the event is,” he said.

Deane said the University cuts funding every year because any student group receiving funds is expected to find ways to become self-sustainable.

“When money is allocated to an event, it’s thought to be helping it get up and running,” he said. “The expectation is that the University will provide seed money but that the group is expected to take on a level of responsibility to find money for the event to continue.”

Shiels said one of the hardest parts of planning the event is cutting through the University’s bureaucratic red tape.

This year, the committee had problems organizing food for the participants because of some of the regulations in the University’s food policies for events.

“Traditional Aboriginal food is hunted and we ran into a rather large problem because the University doesn’t allow people to serve food that isn’t farmed,” Shiels said. “How we were able to get around this was that we learned that a Mohawk woman worked within the University’s hospitality services and, because she was sanctioned by the University, she was able to make our feast without breaching any health code violations.”

The theme of this year’s powwow is “Honouring Our Women.”

“Women are devalued in many cultures and this theme is meant to help people remember the role women have in their communities,” Shiels said. “It used to be women within native tribes who would instruct the chiefs. … Not only do we want to highlight how important women are in our communities, we want to show how they should be valued.”

—With files from Rachel Kuper

The Third-Annual Educational Powwow takes place tomorrow morning at Agnes Benedickson Field.

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