First annual pow-wow at Brock University
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012 10:09
While there are many activities happening over Orientation Week at Brock University this year that may interest the average student, a more spiritual and celebratory event can be experienced as well.
Aboriginal Student Services, The Tecumseh Centre and Brock University Students Union (BUSU) are partnering together to bring the first annual traditional pow-wow to campus.
The event’s theme will be celebrating the fall harvest and those attending will have the opportunity to witness and learn about traditional aboriginal dances, dress and food through their origins and significance.
Pow-wows are a celebration of heritage and traditions, and a way for Indigenous individuals to connect with each other while keeping culture alive through dance, song and storytelling. Most pow-wows are open to the public, offering opportunities to educate those who are not familiar with the traditional and celebratory meanings.
Adrienne Smoke, of Onodaga Clear Sky and third year Drama student at Brock has organized the pow-wow and would like to see many more at Brock.
The pow-wow is hosted by the Student Justice Centre (SJC) at Brock, which provides a safe space and services to students and advocates, researches and provides outreach against social inequalities on campus.
“We should be doing this on campus and it should be endorsed by the University,” said Tikvah Mindorff, SJC Coordinator.
Smoke is an experienced dancer and active community member, and notes her connection with traditional and competitive pow-wow dancing. Dancing in the jingle dress dance style has led her to compete all over Canada.
“The jingle dress dance is a medicine dance for healing the sick, whether that is emotional, mental, physical, spiritual healing,” said Smoke. There are many stories behind the outfit of the dance, with the contemporary jingle dresses being made from multi-coloured fabric decorated with tin jingles, often made from lids of chewing tobacco cans.
“It’s a part of me that dress - if I give it away I want to make sure that person treats it with respect,” said Smoke.
Other style dances will include men and women’s traditional, women’s fancy shawl and men’s grass dance, among others. Smoke describes the outfits in men’s grass dance as being adjourned with yarn or ribbon, hanging from the arms and waist to represent grass in the spirit world. The practical and traditional aspect of the dance was to flatten the field for meetings or camp.
The MC for the event will be sharing knowledge through storytelling to describe the dances, songs and culture. “That is one of the best things when you go to pow wows, if you are there to learn,” said Smoke regarding the teaching aspects.
Smoke, an experienced performer in dance, song and acting expresses how important pow-wows are to her, as they are more than events, they can be part of a lifestyle for some. Smoke is also interested in drama being applied effectively outside the classroom. She has been working with Mirror Theatre, one theatre group at Brock that has been successful at receiving paid work.
Mirror Theatre at Brock devises and performs workshops to mediate potential conflicts, comprised of students, faculty, staff and community members who are interested in devising theatre that examines a variety of social issues.
Smoke’s connection with community and performance also leads her to facilitate workshops on aboriginal dancing and culture to teachers and freelance artists. Smoke will be joining the 32 dancers already registered to perform in the pow-wow.
“A lot of people I have met working in friendship centres and urban settings don’t have a connection with their people. They know they are native, they may not know their nation or clan so even reaching out by running cultural recreation programs is a great way to expose youth,” said Smoke.
Collaborating with community organizations is also something the SJC has set up to bring people and services together at the event. AIDS Niagara and Climate Action Niagara, craft and food vendors, among others plan on attending to have the chance to reach out and connect with the larger Indigenous community.
Brock Dining Services will be providing a free tasting of the Three Sisters Soup, Cornbread and Strawberry Juice for the first 300 guests.
The three hour event will take place in Jubilee Courtyard at Brock University on Sept. 7 from 10:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. with free admission.