Rye powwow unites community

In Arts & Life /

By Emily Bowers

A celebration of culture filled the quad las Saturday as Ryerson held its second annual traditional powwow. Hosted by aboriginal student services, a crowd of approximately 2,000 people braved the chilly temperatures and rain to join in a festival of food, dance, song and drums.

Students from Ryerson and other schools across the province, along with members of Toronto’s native community participated in the traditional dance to try and drive away the late morning rain. More than 20 dancers of all ages, dressed in traditional clothing, moved to the beat and songs of four drum circles from around Ontario.

Kristy McKay, a powwow volunteer and first-year Ryerson student, said aboriginal student services has been planning this year’s even since last year’s ended.

Head female dancer Jenn Martin, 19, from the Ohswekan reserve said it was an honour to be asked to take part in the powwow. “Only certain people are asked to do it,” she said. Martin, along with head male dancer Willis Shawana of the Wikwemikong reserve, led the dancers and people from the crowd throughout the day.

The spirit of the drumming and dancing could not hold back the weather as the powwow moved inside later in the afternoon to escape the rain.

Jessica Ford, a second-year student at the University of Western Ontario came to Ryerson for the powwow with other members of the First Nations Association at Western. Ford took part in the dancing and said it was very moving.

Two fourth-year Ryerson nursing students agree with Ford. The music and dancing impressed Linda Slodan and Wendy Padilla. Although they came across the powwow on their way to a lab session, they decided to stay and take in the event.

Monikca McKay, aboriginal student services coordinator and one of the powwow’s organizers, was very pleased with the day’s results. The number of vendors doubled from last year, said McKay, and the attendance was up until the rain arrived.

The Ryerson powwow “speaks to the week we’ve been doing in the aboriginal community,” said McKay. She estimated there are currently 125 aboriginal students enrolled at Ryerson.

“We’ve come a long way since 1993,” when aboriginal student services began, McKay said.

The powwow ended later in the evening after sundown with the retiring of the flags and the last songs.

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