Concordia University hosted its first ever powwow on Friday, September 16 at Loyola Campus. This event was held to commemorate the Otsenhákta Student Centre’s 30th anniversary.
Powwows are cultural exchanges that are used as part of healing ceremonies, and to celebrate Indigenous dance, music, food and art.
Concordia was bursting with energy, Friday, September 16th, all thanks to one person.
Morning Star Fayard, a third-year student at Concordia University, put together the powwow.
“It was late April, early May that we started to plan this event. My part in organizing this event was contacting people who can participate at this event,” Fayard recalled. “I had to reach out to all the dancers, performers, and all the vendors. I had to reach out to the departments at Concordia to help us with advertising, as well as setting up all tents and chairs.”
Fayard explained that she was also very content with the reception of the event.
“Usually at a powwow people can get shy, especially the students. When the event was going on, the MC was really welcoming and everyone just kind of joined in, especially at the inter-tribal dancing,” Fayard said.
During the opening ceremony of the powwow, two drum groups were playing Indigenous music.
Eric Cotté, a member of the Red Tail Spirit group, was among the drummer players present.
“It’s a big honor to be a part of Concordia’s first ever powwow,” Cotté said, visibly emotional. “It’s a big thing we’re doing here and we’re going to do it right in the best way we can.”
In Canada, the 1876 Indian Act obstructed the celebration of powwows by restricting Indigenous peoples’ right to conduct cultural and spiritual ceremonies and wear traditional outfits.
Keeping the history of powwows in mind, all the participants at the event were extremely proud to be there. Among the performers was Nina Segalowitz, a Concordia University alumnus and throat singer.
“I’m very proud to be representing throat singing with my daughter Sierra. I love the fact that there is a gathering and that we are now a part of a community. I think this is how we make bridges between the communities,” Segalowitz said.
While the performances of various dancers and singers were ongoing, there were also many Indigenous vendors selling handmade goods.
The Concordian spoke with Cory Hunlin, one of the vendors present at the powwow and owner of the shop This Claw. “I make traditional / contemporary earrings and I am constantly changing my earrings. Three years ago, I implemented rabbit fur and I made signature earrings out of that,” they explained.
Fayard, being the creative mind behind the whole event, explained that if she was asked to organize the powwow again she’d do it in a heartbeat.
“I thought it was just an amazing experience for all the people that I’ve met and the people that have participated. The performers and vendors just have so much knowledge to share,” Fayard said.
The whole function of the powwow would not have flowed as smoothly without the help of its volunteers present on site. Alyssa Isaac, an Indigenous fourth-year student at Concordia, explained what being a part of this event meant for her.
“It’s great that we are finally starting this, it’s like a little part of home is here on campus,” Isaac said.
A real sense of community was felt at the powwow and that was the goal at the end of the day.
“Powwow for me is celebrating who we are as Indigenous people and opening our community up. Welcoming anybody, you don’t have to be Indigenous to dance in some of our dances,” Segalowitz said.