Queen’s celebrates Aboriginal culture with first educational pow wow
The Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre at Queen’s University hosts the first annual educational pow wow, attracting participants from across Ontario and the northern United States.
“Our experience has been that Queen’s is open to other nations celebrating their customs and practices” says Director of the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, Georgina Riel. “This pow wow will provide additional visibility for Aboriginal culture at Queen’s and it’s wonderful to see how similar the meaning of our ceremonies, spirituality and celebrations are to other cultures globally.
The pow wow is aimed at providing an educational experience for all members of the Queen’s and greater Kingston communities. Pow wow organizers aspire to attract elementary students to Queen’s who otherwise might have no occasion to visit a university campus.
“The hope is that by reaching Aboriginal students at a young age and exposing them to the cultural richness of campus, we can spark their interest in post secondary education” says Ms Riel.
In addition, the experience of planning the pow wow has been educational for participants, many of whom have never performed in an off-reserve arena, and have had to modify their ceremony in order to accommodate restrictions imposed by the campus environment.
For example the Arbour at the centre of the arena where the drummers are seated has been adapted due to restrictions that prevent the arbour poles being driven deep into the ground for stability. The fire keeper is located on concrete outside Benidickson Field for safety reasons. In Aboriginal communities the fire is usually held in a fire pit.
Funded largely by the Office of the Principal, Office of the Vice Principal (Academic) and Office of the Associate Vice Principal and Dean of Student Affairs, the pow wow welcomes participants from all Aboriginal nations.
Queen’s students have been taking an active role in supporting the event by volunteering to help with filming and photography of the dancing and drumming, assisting elders and drummers throughout the day, and working at the entertainment venue in Grant Hall, the children’s tent, the registration table, and information table.
“Without the students’ help this event would not be possible as Aboriginal Centre staff will be in official regalia as participants in the pow wow,” says Ms Riel.
“This a wonderful opportunity for the Queen’s and greater Kingston communities to celebrate the richness of Aboriginal culture, and the campus will truly benefit from the educational opportunities. This day has something to offer everyone,” says Principal Karen Hitchcock.
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