Downtown Eastside Powwow

Last weekend, we were fortunate enough to be a part of a culturally significant event here in Coast Salish territory called Vancouver. UBC ELI Cultural Assistants and students took part in a Powwow at Oppenheimer Park. A Powwow, to our understanding as settlers in Vancouver, is a communal event to dance, sing, socialize, and honour cultures. This Powwow was even more special as it celebrated the relationship between cultures with children and youth as the latter took centre stage in this festive gathering.powwowblog

The University of British Columbia and our ELI campus is located on the ancestral land of the Musqueam people. Musqueam is one of the many nations, who was here first, before Canada became a country, and this Musqueam land was never given up. For us this means that Musqueam are our hosts while we are here on Coast Salish territory. One of the ways we can respect and honour our host is by witnessing and holding space for their cultural resurgence.

The Powwow began with Grand Entrance, dancers and flag bearers walking into the main venue. The flags carried were symbolic of the different First Nations that were participating and indigenous groups from around the world. Naturally, the event continued on to a lot of dancing by different groups and different categories. The diversity of outfits was a reflection of the diversity of cultures represented at the Powwow. Some dancers wore a lot of feathers, some wore a lot of bells, but they all had one thing in common: they were all very colourful!

We were invited to participate in one of the dances, and we were awkwardly trying to match the drummer’s beat. Safe to say, we were better at taking pictures than dancing, but it was definitely an unforgettable experience.

A lot of the guests at the Powwow were members of different nations from Manitoba to the northern part of British Columbia. However, communities around the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver were also present and a lot of community strength was visible in their hopes and prayers. The importance of connecting children with their culture as a source of strength was also an important message that was repeated often.

Overall, we had a fabulous time enjoying a sunny weekend in Vancouver as guests to this Powwow. Being able to attend and the welcoming atmosphere from our host was greatly appreciated. Hopefully, this will become an unforgettable memory for us and also a source of reflection as we continue living in this city.