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Powwow a celebration of culture and community

By Paula Fournier


PRINCE ALBERT — On May 27, teachers, students and dancers from the Prince Albert Catholic School Division (PACSD) and the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division (SRPSD) took part in a traditional powwow at St. Paul Field by St. Mary High School.

Organizers for this year’s event were PACSD school co-ordinators Diane Kopchynski at St. Mary High School, Sheila Georget at St. John, Therese Gerow at St. Michael, and Jane Goulet at W. F. A. Turgeon as well as powwow advisor Dave Larocque and cultural adviser for the Prince Albert Outreach Program, Liz Sette.

A Native Studies class from St. Mary High School set up the grounds, helped prepare and serve the meal, signed in dancers and assisted the elders. Diane Kopchynski said many attended from the four community schools.

“The cultural and traditional powwow provided an opportunity for the students and adult community members to participate in learning and sharing about the culture and art of powwow dancing and the teaching that go with it. It was a beautiful celebration of sharing,” said Kopchynski. “A meal of stew and bannock was provided.”

The powwow opened with a pipe ceremony presided over by elders Alex Ahenakew and Karen Bird. Representatives from the City of Prince Albert walked to the celebration area as young men drummed. Mayor Greg Dionne, chief of police Troy Cooper, PACSD director of education Lorel Trumier and St. Mary High School principal Mark Phaneuf each carried a flag representing city, province and country. Bishop Albert Thévenot, M. Afr., elders and student dancers from surrounding communities joined the Grand Entry.

While greeting those who came to take part in the celebration, Lorel Trumier spoke to the students, explaining the day was for learning. “Open your eyes, listen to the music, enjoy your friends. This is a day where you get to build community together around a beautiful and sacred ceremony.”

Thévenot said that we all come from one Creator and we stretch out in different ways, like branches in a tree, giving beauty to the world. He welcomed everyone who came to celebrate and encouraged them to be who they are called to be.

“Express it, live it, and let the Creator work through all of us so that we can be people who live in harmony and work together.”

Cooper made special mention of elder Rose Fleury, whom he met for the first time when she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her work in the community.

“I was honoured to be sitting beside her and for today to be part of the celebration here, to teach us about our cultural community,” said Cooper. “This is a real cultural community which allows the police service to be a part of the celebration. I’m thankful I’m allowed to be here as part of the education system celebrating diversity and culture. When you learn about your neighbours, when you have an understanding and appreciation of what your neighbours’ history is, then we form bonds in our community, which makes a stronger community fabric, making it a better place to live.”

Milton Tootoosis from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner said he was thankful sweatlodge and sundance ceremonies have been kept alive throughout the years, as at one time they were banned by the government.
Phaneuf greeted all and explained that people in Canada have a responsibility in making sure treaties are understood and fulfilled.

“Thank you to those who came today, for sharing their joy during the Grand Entrance. Thank you for sharing your culture and the spirit in which it was shared.”

Kopchynski thanked everyone from the schools and surrounding area who helped organize and participate in the day.

“The celebration would not be possible without the help of partners. Thank you to the City of Prince Albert Community Services, Sask Lotteries, SIGA, and PACSD division for bringing us together. A powwow is a celebration of culture and community.”

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