Three changemakers have partnered to launch United Powwow once a month at the Brandon Friendship Centre Mahkaday Ginew Memorial Centre.
The first evening of dance and song Thursday was made possible through a collaboration between the Brandon Aboriginal Youth Activity Centre community youth mentor Miranda Traverse, Big Brother Big Sisters Indigenous Mentoring co-ordinator Gabrielle Jubinville and lead powwow dancer Sam Jackson. The once-a-month sessions are open to everyone looking to practise their dancing and learn more about Indigenous Culture. Sessions will be taking place until August.
"We started it just as a community powwow for our kids, and then Sam came in and it’s like for everyone to come and play," Jubinville said. "It brings people together."
They chose to re-introduce the powwow club once a month because for many the annual powwow trail has already started. Most dancers will be on the road over the summer attending different celebrations. The 2022 powwow summer will be an especially exciting season, Jubinville said, because the tradition has been sorely missed over the past two years due to COVID-19.
The creation of United Powwow is centred on the idea that powwow is a community and serves as a place to celebrate culture and bring people together, Traverse said. There was a need for a powwow club because before there was no consistent place available in Brandon for those looking to learn more about dancing.
Jackson has hosted powwow clubs in the past — first at École New Era School, briefly at the Mahkaday Ginew Memorial Centre and finally at Brandon University. His group also spent time in the parks dancing during COVID-19 when the weather allowed.
While it has been challenging finding a permanent home to celebrate dancing, he said there has been consistent attendance and support from the community.
"It gave us the impression that we need it still," Jackson said. "We just needed to make it happen continuously and it will keep getting bigger."
Everyone is welcome to attend United Powwow, from seasoned dancers to those who are just learning to dance. Some participants will be wearing full regalia while others will be showing up in their everyday outfits — the key is they are all bound by a love of the drumbeat and celebrating Indigenous culture.
Powwow has been life-changing for the three organizers, Traverse said, and they want to share these experiences with others in the community.
"For me, I feel like it’s my ancestors like they’re calling when I hear the drum. I get emotional and that’s just them being proud. It’s in my heart, it’s in my blood," she said.
She added that while she does not sing or dance, she still appreciates the atmosphere created when a community comes together for the powwow.
Powwow is also a critical part of healing the community, she said, every dance is a prayer and every jingle is a prayer aiding unity and revitalization.
Each dance has a story behind it and every step to the beat of the drum is a reclamation and revitalization of culture, Jubinville said. Growing up, one of the first teachings she received from her grandmother was the importance of powwow — she learned this lesson before she even began to dance.
"The reason why this was created, this powwow, was because our kids and our youth were doing drugs from residential school and they needed something to lean on and this is what it was. We didn’t always have to wear these fancy colours all the time because we didn’t need it back then — now it’s needed more than ever," Jubinville said. "My first outfit my mom made it … when I put that outfit on when I was 10 years old I felt like a princess. I felt like I belonged."
She is proud to be sharing that feeling with those who attend the powwow club.
Before joining a powwow club, she did not know how to drum because the art had been taken away through colonialism and the residential school system. Jubinville said being at a powwow and hearing the drum helps her feel more connected to her culture.
"Even though I don’t have an outfit. Even though I’m not practising 24-7 bringing the community together and bringing people who have lost their culture and lost this way of life and bringing it here and still fighting for it, that is what still matters," Jubinville said.
She hopes those who attend the club will have the same passion and the love they grow for powwow will keep them returning each month.
Jackson added the designs on dancers’ outfits are personal to each of them, reflecting their unique identities. These patterns aid in healing because they were allowed to represent themselves and their identity.
Powwow has been in Jackson’s life for as long as he can remember and is a part of who he is as a person. The tradition has helped him face and overcome any adversity he encounters.
He appreciates being able to share this passion with others. He will be bringing his outfit to each monthly session to share with others along with his dance for others to learn.
"It’s about living a life of example. I was always taught if you want to change the world you have to live as an example," Jackson said. "It will teach the next generation, and the next generation and keep it going."
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun