The organizer of a powwow in Chilliwack is inviting everyone to learn more about National Day for Truth and Reconciliation this weekend.
The second annual Orange Shirt Day Powwow takes place Sept. 29 and 30 at Chilliwack Secondary School.
“It is open to all people and we want to invite them to come and participate in Truth and Reconciliation Day, and hear and learn more about what it is and what it means,” said arena director and powwow organizer Gary Abbott.
The word ‘powwow’ comes from the Ojibwe people and it means ‘to gather’ and share songs, stories and dance, he said.
The event is free and will feature dancing, singing, drumming and a number of special dances including men’s traditional, women’s old style jingle dress and tiny tot.
There will also be an orange regalia special dance.
“You have to have some aspect of orange regalia and it’s in honour of Truth and Reconciliation Day,” Abbott explained.
The powwow starts Friday evening (Sept. 29) with a grand entry at 7 p.m., marking the beginning of the event. There’s also a grand entry at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday. Everyone rises to their feet during the grand entry which is led by flag bearers and elders, followed by dancers.
When spectators first walk in the door, they will be surrounded by vendors in the lobby and will hear the singing and drumming coming from the gym.
“I’ve you’ve never been to a powwow before… once you go into the gym, up on the bleachers, you can sit up there and you have an excellent view seeing the whole dance floor and all the different colours of regalia, all the different styles of dance and styles of singing as well,” Abbott said. “Every style of dance has its own type of songs. Learning to discern the different songs and different styles takes a long time.”
As the dancing is happening, they will explain to the public the history behind it all.
For example, jingle dress dance comes from the Ojibwe people, and men’s southern fancy comes from the Oklahoma area, he said. There’s even a difference between northern and southern men’s fancy.
There are countless types of singing and dancing and it takes a “lifetime” to learn them all, he said.
“We’re all different. All of our songs, stories and dance are different, but we have adopted them within the powwow circle from all parts of North America.”
One of the biggest draws will be the vendors from all over B.C. More than 50 vendors will be selling arts and craft items, jewelry, smoked salmon, materials to make regalia (feathers, fabric, beads) and more. Everything is traditionally made and/or has First Nations designs.
And many vendors will be making items right at their booth for the public to see.
Eight drum groups are lined up and the host drum is Wild River from Chilliwack. The powwow emcee is Chris Wells. A jigging demonstration by Chilliwack Métis Association takes place Saturday, and there’s a Zumba session during the dinner break that same day. The dinner feast, hosted by B.C. Métis Society, is Saturday at 5 p.m. and is free for everyone.
The powwow is funded by the Chilliwack School District and the City of Chilliwack, and students from Chilliwack Secondary School will be paid to work the concession.
Abbott is expecting about 500 people during each session (Friday evening, Saturday afternoon, and Saturday evening). They will be recognizing National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with a moment of silence and a speaker.
“I’m the first generation that never went to residential school. Before that, my parents, my grandparents, everybody went,” Abbott said. “The younger generation doesn’t even have an idea of what it was like. It’s good to let the young people hear the stories and have an understanding of what it was like because a lot of times the survivors don’t really talk about it.”
Abbott said even Indigenous people don’t really know what reconciliation is yet.
“We know the word, but what does it mean to us? I think we’re a long ways, we’re just starting.”
The second annual Orange Shirt Day Powwow is at Chilliwack Secondary School on Sept. 29 and 30. Grand entry times are 7 p.m. Friday, and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday.
The event is free and there is a free dinner Saturday at 5 p.m. Everyone is welcome.