The Kamloopa Powwow Society (KPS) has issued a public apology ahead of its annual powwow in Secwépemc homelands, after many people denounced the group’s rules and regulations as discriminatory, anti-2SLGBTQ+ and colonial.
The powwow is set to take place in Tk’emlúps (Kamloops) from July 29-31, and includes several dance competitions, drum competitions and a pageant for girls.
The apology came in the form of a written statement accompanied by a video from KPS president Delyla Daniels on Wednesday. It followed significant online backlash and heavy criticism from Indigenous people from several different communities and nations.
The powwow’s schedule of events and contest rules were posted on July 12 on the KPS Facebook page, and stated that powwow dancers needed to be “at least ¼ Native Blood,” and that they must be of “the correct gender” for their category. The powwow also includes a “princess pageant,” for girls aged 13 to 17, and the rules stated that contestants “must be single, having no children or spouse.”
In its apology, KPS said that the wording of the powwow’s rules and regulations does not does not reflect how they have run the last 19 powwows.
“We are inclusive in honouring our 2SLGBTQIA+ and will continue to recognize our relatives,” it states. “We want to ensure that our event celebrates a diverse Indigenous culture and community respectfully.”
The society also noted that it is updating the dance rules “to reflect equality,” however it did not specify whether it would change the pageant rules.
The post of the schedule and rules has garnered more than one thousand reactions, with nearly 900 comments and almost two thousand shares. Many people in the comment section described the requirements as discriminatory against trans and Two-Spirit people, as well as for young mothers. Many also likened the “¼ Native Blood” rule to a colonial mindset.
A Métis-Cree parent has also come forward to share the ways in which the rules discriminate against those close to him.
IndigiNews spoke with Trevor Spencer, a Métis-Cree member of Métis Nation British Columbia, who said that the blood quantum requirement discounts non-status and Métis people from participating.
Spencer, who lives in Tk’emlúps, also said the rules around gender were a “big red flag” and that they hit close to home because a child in his life is transgender.
“Our people are usually very supportive of trans and Two-Spirit people – Two-Spirit being very, very well respected,” he said.
“[It’s] blowing my mind actually with everything that’s going on.”
In a time where Indigenous peoples should be standing firm together, Spencer said the powwow’s regulations would have served to divide communities.
“[I] want to have kids grow up and learn about the Secwépemc People, Coast Salish People, syilx People – it’s important to me that they get that opportunity,” he said. “A place that’s not inclusive to everyone – that’s counter to parenting in general.”
Others who were also upset by the rules said similar things in the comments section.
“Every child matters except for the Two-Spirit [people], young moms and [those with] less than 1/4 [blood] quantum … this feels like a huge step backwards. Hope this is revised,” wrote one person in the powwow’s rules and regulation post
“This is outrageous and appalling to discriminate against our own people through blood quantums and homophobia/transphobia! Our Two-Spirit kin are sacred and should be celebrated and treated as such! This mindset only continues to divide our people and communities,” wrote another.
“When we honour ‘ALL OF OUR CHILDREN’ that includes Two-Spirit!!! So disheartening and disgusting to our people and to the children/youth who are trying to discover and find where they belong. Don’t shun them, welcome them!!!,” reads another comment.
Kairyn Potts, a Two-Spirit Indigenous Youth advocate and motivational speaker from the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, created a TikTok video critiquing the powwow’s rules and regulations. As of publication, the video had received more than 46,000 “likes” on the social media platform, and had been viewed more than 235,000 times.
“Kamloopa Powwow is enacting literal colonization tactics – blood quantum – to limit the amount of people that can join the powwow,” Potts said.
Potts called the powwow’s “correct gender” regulation “heartbreaking” and “a step backwards” for the community.
“It’s actively undoing a lot of the work that myself and many, many, many other advocates for the Two-Spirit and Indigenous queer community are putting in so much work and love and energy into,” he said.
“The Kamloopa Powwow committee really has no problem letting every single young person who is Two-Spirit, or transgender or non-Binary, or any of these gender diversities, that they are not allowed to come. They can not dance.”
IndigiNews has reached out to KPS for an interview but has not heard back.
Aaron Hemens, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse