Students gather to celebrate Indigenous culture
On March 12th, UofT hosted the first Powwow event on campus in 20 years. The event featured traditional food, dances, and education on indigenous cultures.
The Indigenous Studies Students’ Union began to organize the event mid-November, 2016. Chairman of the event, Jennifer Sylvester, told The Strand in November that the purpose of the Powwow was to celebrate the “wide range of Indigenous culture at the University, so that we are all equally represented.”
The flag bearer for the Powwow was a selected student leader, Zachary Biech. Biech finished his undergraduate degree in Indigenous studies and is now a first-year law student. Notably, he is a descendant of the legendary Chief Poundmaker. While growing up, Beich claims he had little contact with Plains Cree communities. In 2015, Beich and two other students decided it was time for proper representation for students claiming or supporting indigeneity. Thus, the Indigenous Student’s Union was constitutionalized.
Taking place at the Athletic Centre, student participation included: performances from smoke, hoop, jingle, and Aztec dancers. Along with dancing, there was drumming and singing throughout the event. The Powwow also featured workshops where people were invited to learn about Indigenous cultures.
UofT is one of the first universities to act accordingly to the Truth and Reconciliation act. President Meric Gertler commissioned a report to be done by UofT’s Steering Committee for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in a response to a nation-wide report on reconciliation by the TRC of Canada in 2015.
The Powwow recognized missing and murdered indigenous women, whom were honored with a dance by UofT undergrad, Nichole Leveck.
The last event, similar in nature to the Powwow, was the First nations House 20th anniversary, which brought out nearly 200 people, including government officials. Those who attended the March 2017 Powwow included: Carolyn Bennett, UofT alumna, and federal minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. Susan McCahan, vice provost, innovations in undergraduate education, was also in attendance.