Cultural Preservation and Powwows
When I think about my favourite memory regarding Powwows, I’d have to say that the first thing that comes to mind is when my one of my children was sad one day because “only the Aboriginal students can wear their regalia to school tomorrow” as the next day was National Aboriginal Day. I smiled as I didn’t understand because yes, 100% we are Indigenous. Long story short, I had explained to them that yes, you are most definitely Indigenous and yes you absolutely are wearing your regalia tomorrow! I’ll never forget them running around the house cheering, “Yay!! I’m ABORIGINAL!!! I’m ABORIGINAL!!!” Wow, I loved hearing that so very much. This was never something I was cheering at that early age of 4. Times were slowly changing! That was in 2001. Since then, 3 other ‘littles’ have worn that same tiny jingle dress and soon my very first granddaughter will be doing the same.
I’ll never forget them running around the house cheering, “Yay!! I’m ABORIGINAL!!! I’m ABORIGINAL!!!” Wow, I loved hearing that so very much. This was never something I was cheering at that early age of 4. Times were slowly changing!
History of Pow Wows
When the Indian Act was established in 1876, traditional celebrations were banned. This included any performance of song and dance, including Powwows. It also prohibited regalia being worn. Powwows are meant to be a time of celebration and provide a place that promotes community and culture. While this was only one of the many aspects of Indigenous culture impacted by the Indian Act, it carried a huge significance. During this time, Powwows were still held in secret. Indigenous people continued to fight for their right to reinstate their ability to hold celebrations. Only as recently as 1951 were Powwows able to be legally celebrated.
When the treatment and history of Indigenous people in Canada is discussed, it can sound like it was long ago but as we can see, this isn’t true. This is an important reminder that recent generations along with individuals and communities today have been and continue to be impacted under the Indian Act.
What is a Pow Wow? What can you expect?
Pow Wows typically include song and dance. The kick-off or start of the ceremony is called the Grand Entry. The MC, or master of ceremonies, of the Powwow will share details of the flow of the event and oversees keeping the schedule.
There can be many dances that feature different ages, women and men, and different regalia. Each dance and regalia have a unique representation and meaning behind it. Common dances can include the men’s Traditional and Fancy dance and the women’s Fancy Shawl and Jingle Dress dance. There is also a drum group that can be heard playing and singing throughout the Powwow.
The main Powwow season runs from the spring into early fall. Many of these events are hosted outdoors and can be specific to one community or run for larger events.
Powwows can be open to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. If you are non-Indigenous and are interested in attending, there are a few things to know beforehand! The most important part is to remain respectful. As an observer, you should only participate where appropriate. If you are taking pictures, make sure to ask the dancer if they mind having their photo taken. It’s important to remember that any of the regalia should not be touched. It is best to dress modestly at these events. If you are unsure of anything, you can always ask one of the organizers.
Cultural Preservation: Celebrations and Traditions
Like many, I wasn’t taught about my culture growing up, nor was it spoken of. Today, I find myself in awe of the progression our people have accomplished thus far. Today, I own a business that strives to support our culture and promote reconciliation on all levels. We capture and preserve our teachings. What I wouldn’t give, to turn back time and have my Mama (grandmother), the late Agnes Hardy’s teachings, documented and preserved for all to learn and love. I know she’s proud of us and that is what drives our team every single day. We have been left with a responsibility and we will continue to carry it with pride.
What I wouldn’t give, to turn back time and have my Mama (grandmother), the late Agnes Hardy’s teachings, documented and preserved for all to learn and love. I know she’s proud of us and that is what drives our team every single day. We have been left with a responsibility and we will continue to carry it with pride.
From speaking with different elders and other community leaders, a concern that often comes up is how traditions will be passed down to younger generations. Elders are looking for ways to connect with youth and make sure their knowledge lives on. While traditionally we see archiving knowledge and history in a written format, that doesn’t necessarily capture the true value of these teachings. Text can also be manipulated and edited over time. Cultural preservation through virtual reality is a perfect way to capture these teachings and pass along knowledge in a way that reflects the importance of storytelling and the traditional way of sharing this knowledge.
With ImmersiveLink Cultural, we have had the privilege of working with Knowledge Keepers and Elders to capture their knowledge. When users put on a headset, they will feel like they are in the same space as the host as if they were having a conversation with them in person. With technology, these experiences can be properly preserved and can continue to be shared with generations to come.
While these traditional teachings represent the foundation of Indigenous culture, celebrations like Powwows are just as significant. This is the very reason we introduced ImmersiveLink Powwows. We wanted communities to be able to capture celebrations and showcase these powerful, and positive time-honoured traditions. These virtual, interactive experiences capture Powwows including key events like the Grand entry, dances or an Elder Tribute. They are fully customizable to the events your community is looking to capture.
Cultural preservation in your community is important to keeping this knowledge alive for future generations. If you’re interested in learning more about capturing your Pow Wow, visit https://immersivelink.ca/360-video-production/cultural-preservation/.
Let’s work. Together.