Putting the wow in this year’s powwow

Spirit of the People Powwow July 24-26 in Chilliwack features "a powerhouse of talent" with the theme 'honouring women'

Grand entry of the dancers is at 7 p.m. on July 24 for the 2015 Spirit of the People Powwow at Tzeachten Sports Field on Bailey Road.

Grand entry of the dancers is at 7 p.m. on July 24 for the 2015 Spirit of the People Powwow at Tzeachten Sports Field on Bailey Road.

Putting on traditional powwows in Chilliwack has always been a family tradition, says organizer Gary Abbott.

The Spirit of the People Pow Wow at Tzeachten Sports Field will see that tradition continue.

Abbott has been a powwow dancer most of his life.

“Watching my parents run the powwow and learning how to do it gave me substantial knowledge in how it’s all put together and how to do it well,” he says.

Organizers for the Spirit of the People Powwow July 24-26 have assembled “a powerhouse of talent” with drummers and dancers coming to Chilliwack from across North America.

It will be the first time in a couple of years that Sto:lo organizers are presenting a competition style event.

“We’re expecting this to be one of the largest powwows in B.C.,” Abbott says.

A competition powwow means the focus is on a set list of traditional dance categories and a set time for dancers to do their thing.

There will be dancers and drummers competing for cash prizes and specials. Attendees can also expect a West Coast hand drum contest, with participants in full regalia.

There are plans for a First Nations fashion show, along with authentic crafts and arts, salmon BBQ with Indian Tacos, bannock and more.

As usual, everyone is welcome to soak up some proud displays of aboriginal culture, he says.

Abbott says he’s happy to be giving back, and sees the event as a multicultural one, with a bhangara dance group set to perform.

“It’s up to all of us to put on a good event, and it’s a way of giving back to benefit our culture and lifestyle.”

Unfortunately, the number of powwows has been on the decline in B.C. over the past five years.

“So there is a reason to continue this good work,” he says. “We’re working hard to reinvigorate it on a number of levels.”

This year the theme of this year’s powwow is honouring women, says Abbott.

“Several matriarchs from communities across B.C. will be attending this year’s event. We will be giving them a chance to introduce themselves and share a little about their families.”

They’re hoping to attract 4000 to 6000 people throughout the weekend.

“It’s a great way to bring all different cultures together with a focus on First Nations. But many non native people enjoy it very much as well.”

The Tzeachten Sports Field on Bailey Road is just an “awesome venue” with many suitable aspects.

“It’s a very level and forgiving surface when you dance on the fields. Plus there is a lot of space for the dance arena and the vendors.”

They’ll have twice as many vendors coming as last year, where they only had about two months to get organized.

A teepee will be set up on-site.

Spirit of the People Powwow, July 24-26, at Tzeachten Sports Field, 46770 Bailey Rd, Chilliwack, or check them out on Facebook.Grand entry is at 7 p.m. on Friday night, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. The Spirit Fashion Show will be on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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