On Sept. 23, United College’s 20th annual Powwow, or Gidinawendamin/Ska’nikú-lát Powwow, was hosted indoors on the CIF turf. Beginning at 7 a.m. with a sunrise ceremony, the day was packed full of Indigenous culture and dances. Gidinawendamin means “we are all related”, and Ska’nikú-lát means “one spirit one mind”.
This Powwow is held annually on the fall equinox, when day and night are of equal length.
The main event started at noon with the Grand Entry and opening ceremony, during which three Eagle Staffs and a variety of flags – including the 2 Spirit, Haudenosaunee, Metis, City of Waterloo, and the Canadian Armed Forces – entered the circle followed by all of the dancers present. These flags and Eagle Staffs were placed onto the stands at the center of the powwow circle and remained there for the entire event.
The powwow was an exhibition-style event, where dancers of all ages could showcase their skills. The dances included the men’s and women’s Haudenosaunee Traditional dance, the Haudenosaunee Smoke dance, as well as the jingle dress dance among others.
The powwow also honoured Indigenous Veterans, including those from both the Canadian and American Armed forces. A special veterans dance occurred directly after the Grand Entrance, where veterans and family members of veterans could dance to honour their contributions to the Armed Forces.
Before the Smoke Dance, Smoke drummer Lotunt Honyust was invited to speak and introduce the history behind this specific dance. “There was a time where it looked like our people weren’t going to survive, but we’re still here,” he said, explaining how members of the community were still speaking their languages and practicing their culture. For Women, the Smoke Dance’s roots come from welcoming warriors home after battle, and for men, the dance comes from the way they told stories of war upon their return.
A main feature of the event was the Intertribal Dance, where anyone was invited to join in and dance to the drums, regardless of if they were indigenous or not. There were multiple Intertribal songs played by a variety of drummers, including host drum Cedar Hill Singers, co-host drum Little Creek Singers, and invited drums Red Tail, Michiisaagig Minomin, and Spirit Nation Singers.
Throughout the day attendees could shop at a market where indigenous artisans and small business owners were selling wares – from jewelry and beadwork, to hand-carved stone sculptures. Several organizations including Amnesty International and Wilfrid Laurier’s Indigenous Student Services were also present.