Calgary Stampede Powwow held in Saddledome for first time

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Competitors dance in the Calgary Stampede Powwow at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday.  (Oseremen Irete/CBC - image credit)
Competitors dance in the Calgary Stampede Powwow at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday. (Oseremen Irete/CBC - image credit)

The Calgary Stampede Powwow is getting a bigger stage this year — inside the Scotiabank Saddledome.

The three-day event, which includes competitive dancing, drumming, singing and other Indigenous performances, isn't new to Stampede. It's usually held each year at the Elbow River Camp.

This year, a pilot project moved the adults' competition to the 'Dome to accommodate bigger crowds who want to experience the Indigenous culture as performers compete for $175,000 in prize money.

Representing Treaty 7 territory in this venue is a big deal, said Cheryl Crowchief, the Stampede's powwow co-ordinator.

"I'm totally, totally happy, thrilled, ecstatic. I can't even describe to you the feeling that I have knowing that I'm a part of this," she said.

Oseremen Irete/CBC
Oseremen Irete/CBC

It's been a couple years since Ralph Large, from Saddle Lake Cree Nation north of Edmonton, has danced at the Stampede. He has competed in Indian horse relay racing in the interim, but this year he's taking part in the powwow and is a big fan of the new atmosphere.

"It's awesome that they had something like this finally," said Large.

Some of the dancers and singers have travelled from across Canada and the United States to make it to the Stampede. Amos Yazzie III, a fancy dancer from Navajo Nation in Arizona, was invited by powwow organizers.

Oseremen Irete/CBC
Oseremen Irete/CBC

"It's like a big deal here in Calgary, and it's looking like a really good deal starting out," he said.

He added that, with a world-class venue and world-class performers, he hopes it continues.

"It's kind of best of the best. It's going to be a good one," said Yazzie.

"Knowing how many people are going to be here and see us perform, dance, sing — and it's just exciting."

Crowchief hopes the powwow will be held in the Saddledome again and get bigger in years to come, with kids under 18 taking part. For now, youth have their own event at the Elbow River Camp on Kids' Day.

The powwow runs July 12-14 and is free with admission to the Stampede.

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