Vibrant indigenous dancers from the across the Okanagan will converge in Penticton this Friday to celebrate Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day.
The celebration on June 21 will take place at the Shatford Centre from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with what is becoming an annual tradition: a powwow.
Anona Kampe, cultural coordinator with Okanagan Skaha School District 67, said the powwow is a powerful symbol of indigenous culture and, traditionally, is a way to bring people together over the long distances.
Indigenous people from communities across the Okanagan will be dressed in regalia to dance, sing and drum, she said. What each dancer wears has different meanings depending on their age and role.
“The jingle dress originated in Ojibwa country. It’s not an Okanagan custom per se and yet there are lots of Okanagan people who have started dancing with a jingle dress because it is a medicine dress and a healing dance. The sound from the jingles will carry your prays to the creator so the creator can hear your prayers,” she explained.
It is the fourth year a powwow is being held at the Shatford Centre, but new this year, students from Oliver will be attending to perform songs in a drum group.
“They’re really excited to come and join us as well,” Kampe said.
June 21 is symbolic for indigenous people, Kampe said, because it is the first day of the summer and as the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.
Kampe said some other important things to know about the powwow is that the regalia participants wear should never be considered to be costumes.
“A costume is make-believe and pretend. Our culture is very real, it’s not pretending. When I dress in my jingle dress, I’m a jingle dancer,” she said.
The powwow begins at 11 a.m. with an opening ceremony but there will also be craft vendors, face painting, food trucks, vendors and a bouncy castle. A drum competition will also take place.
The event is organized by the En’owkin Centre, Indigenous Education-School District 67, Ooknakane Friendship Centre, Okanagan College, Penticton Historical Society, South Okanagan Restorative Justice and the Shatford Centre Okanagan School of the Arts.
Indigenous Peoples Day was first celebrated in Canada as National Aboriginal Day in 1996. In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau renamed the day to National Indigenous Peoples Day, with support from Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde.