Students from across Lakeland area visit Powwow
St Paul Educational Regional Division and the council of Saddle Lake Cree Nation collaborated to bring students from the area a first-person learning and cultural experience on Sept. 20, as hundreds of students took part in the fifth Traditional School Powwow.
Grade 4 and 5 students from schools across the division were bused to the Saddle Lake powwow arbor to watch and participate in the celebrations.
The event opened with elder Louie Moosewah calling for a moment of silent prayer. Then, students had the historical and cultural context and significance of the powwow explained to them. They watched the dancers, listened to drum songs and were brought down to the ground level, to dance in a circle with the powwow dancers.
In a speech to guests and participants, SPERD Trustee Heather Starosielski described the atmosphere as “electric,” thanking everyone involved, and congratulating Saddle Lake’s council for their invitation, and help in planning and setting up the event.
“It’s a celebration of dance, singing, and drumming. It’s also a day to celebrate another culture,” she said.
“This is a great step forward,” said Saddle Lake Coun. Dennis Steinhauer at the beginning of the powwow. “It’s an honour and it’s good to see kids participating. Thanks to the teachers for taking time out of your long days for this. Thanks to everyone.”
Dancers performed in full regalia, and ranged in age from young children to adults.
“Things are going good today,” said Hailey Salopree, a young dancer who took part in the powwow. “I have been dancing for a very long time, and I think people should come out, dance, express themselves and see for themselves what this is about.”
Steinhauer congratulated SPERD Superintendent Glen Brodziak for his “vision of bringing students here to this ceremony to see it on the land where it takes place. It’s inspiring. It’s a good cultural experience. It’s important for kids to see that, and see our way of life.”
Steinhauer added that as a nation, Saddle Lake is honoured to have SPERD visit and watch the powwow.
“It’s an important event because we all ought to learn and know about the First Nations and their cultures,” explained Glenda Bristow, program coordinator for the powwow.
“Culture is part of the curriculum for students in Alberta, and the powwow is a big part of our culture. We could bring students into schools but it wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t as good as bringing students into the community where it takes place – to this sacred location,” said Bristow.
SPERD Superintendent Glen Brodziak thanked the Saddle Lake Chief and Council “for being wonderful hosts today. The dancers were wonderful, and we learned so much just by being here today,” adding, “A day like this symbolizes how we should be treating each other everyday. Every student came out and benefitted, and learned something.”
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