On Friday, the McGill First People’s House hosted its 12th Annual Pow Wow, a day of traditional dancing, singing, and ceremonies honouring the Indigenous population of McGill and Montreal.
According to Paige Isaac, the coordinator of the First Peoples’ House, the event is designed to offer students and faculty the chance to learn about Indigenous culture, and it provides a venue for local Indigenous artisans and vendors to sell their goods. The Pow Wow has been a staple of the McGill Fall semester since it began in 2001.
“We encourage everyone to come: the McGill community, their families, the Montreal community,” Issac said. “We invite many Native organizations in the city [….] It’s a gathering and a celebration of Indigenous culture.”
This year, live workshops on the art of Indigenous craft-making were added to the Pow Wow, as well as more local Indigenous artists selling their goods.
“I think people are going to notice … a lot more local Aboriginal artists and vendors, selling their own crafts and such,” she said. “We did some outreach to make sure that we had a lot more local vendors.”
Towanna Miller, a first-time vendor at the McGill Pow Wow, was selling handmade traditional Iroquois crafts. She said that the presence of local vendors at such an event would help build relationships between Indigenous students at McGill and those already living in the area.
“I like sharing our culture with students,” Miller said. “The students are eventually going to be business owners in Montreal, and it’s good that we’re neighbours […] and we have cultural exchanges.”
The effort to reach out to more local Indigenous artisans is one of many changes that Isaac hopes to implement in coming years.
“I would really like to see a lot more students in full regalia dancing for the Pow Wow [and] even expanding on our Aboriginal alumni honouring ceremony,” she said. “I’d really like to increase awareness […] and get in touch with a lot more of our alumni and create and expand and enhance that part of the ceremony.”
Marne Deszo, a long-time Montreal resident who attended the Pow Wow for her first time this year, said she was impressed with the amount of culture and passion that the performers were able to convey through their acts.
“I wanted to come here today because my heart goes out to our First Nations neighbours, and I don’t know what to do about their problems,” she said. “What I saw today was phenomenal. I love their costumes, and the passion that they dance with, and I’m really interested in introducing my granddaughter to First Nations art and culture.”
The Pow Wow kicks off McGill’s third annual Indigenous Awareness Week, which runs until Sept. 27.