Indigenous culture and traditions celebrated at local Powwow

Attendees of the Northwest Indian College Pow Wow dance during the grand entry on Oct. 27 at the Wexliem Community Building. // Photo by Oliver Hamlin

By Jack Taylor

Heavy drum beats echoed as excited children and elders from indigenous communities marched together in the opening ceremony of the Powwow on Friday, Oct. 27. Dressed in colorful apparel, ranging from bright yellows to deep blues, traditions and celebrations were interspersed with dancing and remembrance for everyone in attendance.

A powwow is a indigenous gathering often held during summer months. The gatherings include songs, dances and even competitions rooted in tradition. The Powwow was organized by the Northwest Indian College.

“It is a great opportunity to be involved in your community,” NWIC Dean of Student Life Victoria Retasket said.

Retasket has been dancing since she was 12 years old and sees powwows as both social and athletic events. Retasket said her 9-year-old daughter also participates in the tradition.

Speaking on the specifics of putting on a powwow, Retasket said much of the work is put into creating funding.

People from all areas of North America traveled to attend the Powwow, which was held in Lummi Nation. Retasket said $6,000 was raised through donations and fundraising the event.

“Nowadays, powwows are competitive which means we pay out prize money to some of the best dancers who show up,” Retasket said.

Matthew Sheka Sr. has been attending powwows for 41 years. He traveled from Arizona for the event and said he is also passionate about coaching a new generation to sing and dance.

“The best part about powwows is that I get to see friends from Friday to Sunday, and I get to enjoy the time singing and dancing,” Sheka Sr. said.

Keisha Jones, who came to the event from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, spoke on the misconceptions non-indigenous have surrounding powwows. She said there is still confusion about who is allowed to attend and how to be respectful.

“Often people think that it is something that you are not allowed to show support for,” Jones said. “But I think it is something that is really important for people to witness and what happens so that there are not misconceptions.”

More information on Northwest Indian College can be found on its website, and more information on powwows can be found at www.powwows.com

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