Intertribal powwow returns to Mission

Mission's Cherry Hill Elementary School is the site of the first intertribal powwow held in SD75 since 1999

Little Jingle Dress Dancer

An intertribal powwow will take place at Cherry Hill elementary on Saturday, marking the first time it has been held in the school system since 1999.

The É-mâmawohkamâtotan Intertribal powwow, meaning “everyone working together” in Cree, will feature aboriginal dancers and drummers from the prairies and the Sto:lo people of the Fraser Valley. The slogan for the powwow is Qepóthet Ye Mestiyexw, which means “bringing people together” in Halkemalem, the Sto:lo language.

“The reason we stepped back a bit from doing the powwows was because the Sto:lo people needed to more establish the culture of the area in the schools,” said Kathy James, an event organizer who has a mixed heritage of Cree, Blackfoot, Anishnabe and English.

The idea of having a powwow in the Mission School District came from a parent of a former student from Cherry Hill Elementary who approached principal Daryl Anderson. He liked the idea and asked James to help coordinate it with co-chairs Lisa and John Miller, all of whom have volunteered their time.

“We have an achievement contract and an agreement with the province that we’ve undertaken to really support our aboriginal kids and families as much as we possibly can,” he said, adding 14 per cent of the student population is aboriginal.

Each child participating in the powwow will come from communities that designate them as “royalty.” To become royalty the children enter a contest with a talent, whether it be dancing, singing, poem recital or drumming.

Dancers are judged on their regalia as well as their dance style. Contestants will get extra points for selling raffle tickets, helping out at the powwow, and any positive role modelling they do during the event.

There are several categories for children under 19, adults from 19-50, and then Elders.

The host drummers are the Little Creek Singers, with some being past Mission students, including Bear James and Richard Karasosky. The host drum sings the main songs, like the Grand Entry, the Retreat, Flag Song, and any other category they are called upon to sing.

“The most important part of this pow wow is to bring the youth, their families and the community together to share,” said James.

The first grand entry begins at 1 p.m. There will be a dinner break from 5-6:45, featuring traditional coastal First Nations hand-drumming. The second grand entry takes place at 7 p.m. and dancing will continue until 9:30-10.

Admission is by donation.