October 30, 2009
For nearly 20 years, the university has hosted an annual powwow in the second or third week of September to welcome students back to campus. But this year, there will not be any dancers or teepees in the Bowl as the powwow will move to a larger location in the spring to better accommodate the size and significance of the traditional Cree ceremony.
Kathleen Makela, manager of the Aboriginal Students' Centre (ASC), says the reason for moving the event became clear last year when the university hosted the largest powwow to date. With 10 adult drum groups, three youth drum groups, 247 dancers, eight First Nation and Métis Veterans and crowds of spectators, hosting the event was becoming difficult. Now, with construction taking up precious space in the Bowl, the time has come to move the powwow to a better place and time, she said.
“It was getting too big for the Bowl, but there are other factors as well. We are all so busy in the fall to begin with. The timing just wasn't good. Once we move the date, it opens up all kinds of possibilities.”
Makela says there are significant advantages to moving the powwow to the spring, such as timing the event around convocation which would be a “culturally appropriate way to celebrate our graduates.”
Another big opportunity will be engaging high school students, she says, and using the event as a recruitment tool for aboriginal students. Nearly 1,000 school-age kids attended the event last year and that number is expected to increase, especially with the 2010 powwow moving to a larger location like Griffiths Stadium.
“Griffiths serves the community better. We think if we can move to a larger venue, then we will be better off.”
The powwow has an overall budget of $50,000 with three-fifths of the funds coming from sponsors. The majority of the expense is prizes for the dancers, says Makela, since the university's event is part of the Powwow Trail, the competitive dancing circuit.
Makela doesn't know the exact date yet for the 2010 powwow but she is hoping it will take place around spring convocation.“We're so excited about the possibilities of having the powwow in the spring. It will get much bigger, but at the same time, it will be more manageable.”