Students at last year's School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) youth powwow.

Students at last year's School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) youth powwow.

Creston Valley Aboriginal education students hosting fifth annual youth powwow

Web Lead

  • May. 3, 2015 7:00 p.m.

The Aboriginal education rooms at Creston Valley schools — and throughout the district — have been abuzz lately as students prepare for the fifth annual youth powwow.

The event featuring students from all over School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) runs at the Creston and District Community Complex (CDCC) on May 15, an opportunity for everyone in the community to watch and learn.

“It’s going to be a fun, lighthearted experience,” said Josie Fullarton, Adam Robertson Elementary School’s Aboriginal education youth worker. “It’s just such a unique way to educate people in a very relaxed, welcoming atmosphere.”

The powwow runs in two two-hour sessions, with grand entry starting at 9:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. It will be hosted by MCs Ruben Little Head and Mike Sanchez, who will ensure the public know what’s going on, including when to remove hats or stop taking photos — two concerns, Fullarton said, that newcomers often have.

“We all have a role to play in educating about native culture,” said Fullarton.

About 700 students, or about 15 per cent, in SD8 self-identify as Aboriginal, and the vast majority of those have been making regalia for the powwow as part of each school’s Aboriginal education program.

“The kids have been counting down the days,” said Danica Lee, the SD8 Aboriginal program co-ordinator.

The Kootenay Lake school district’s students will be joined by students from three or four other districts at the powwow, an event that started out much smaller, before outgrowing the Prince Charles Secondary School gymnasium and moving to the CDCC last year.

A youth drum group from Cranbrook will also take part in this year’s powwow.

“They have asked if this could be the very first powwow they drum at,” said Fullarton.

To have Aboriginal youth interested in their culture and wanting to participate is far different to Fullarton’s upbringing — when she was young, she would tell people she was Italian when questioned about her skin colour.

“These guys are so proud to be Aboriginal and self-identify,” she said. “I was so ashamed and these kids are so proud.”

As the powwow has grown in both size and popularity, the community has been quick to encourage that pride.

“The support we have is just phenomenal,” said Fullarton. “It’s coming from people who donate fabric and sewing machines and time.”

Even non-Aboriginal students are getting in on the preparation, helping their friends to make regalia for the powwow.

“It really brings everyone together,” said Lee.