The prospect of heavy rain may have driven the Penticton Indian Band powwow indoors, but it failed to dampen the spirits of the dancers or the audience.
Hundreds of people crowded into Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School Saturday afternoon for the renewal of the band’s powwow, more than three decades since the last one was held in the late 1970s. The powwow drew dancers from far and wide, including Shuswap elder Ernie Phillip.
“I am very happy. It is a great pleasure to be here in your territory,” said Phillip, also known as Dancing Bear, a name given him by the Sioux.
Phillip, an acclaimed dancer and past grand champion, has danced all around the world, worked with the Four Seasons War Dance Club, which this powwow was honouring, in the 60s and 70s.
Phillip’s words, however, were directed to the new generation of dancers.
“I always say this to any young dancers. Always remember where you came from, always remember who you are, particularly when you dress up,” Phillip said.
Hereditary chief Adam Eneas talked about honouring the tradition of the Four Seasons War Dance Club, which was active in the early 70s.
“They danced throughout B.C., the United States and eventually went on tour to Germany,” said Eneas. The troupe also performed for Queen Elizabeth, Prince Edward and Princess Margaret when they visited Penticton in 1971, the same year they organized the first PIB powwow.
“Ernie Philip was one of the dancers that assisted them. The other dancer was Steven Pointe, a Stó:lō member from the Chilliwack area — he was appointed as the first First Nations lieutenant governor,” said Eneas. “Those two came and donated a lot of time instructing our people how to dance and the protocols associated with powwows.
“We wanted to make sure that our people saw what they could do ourselves, our young people, make ourselves proud of who we were and show the community at large, the white people, what we could do and welcome them into our community as we are doing today.”
Powwow organizer Kristine Jack looked to the future as she honoured the past.
“When I first started on this trail, I wanted to honour the Four Seasons War Dance Club because I grew up with this group, they were my family. There was Joey Pierre, my cousin, his wife Caroline, Larry and Susan Pierre, Clara Jack, and Sophie Alec,” said Jack. “Before I could say I wanted to make this an annual, I needed to, with respect, honour those who put us here in 1971. They had eight successful years with our powwow and today I want to honour the two remaining, Sophie Alec and Caroline Pierre.”
Jack said it has been a year and a half since she started bringing people together as a committee to revive the original group as the Four Seasons Cultural Society.
“Together, we are here today and I am so grateful they hung in there,” said Jack. “This is where it started and this is going to continue.”
Read more: Renewing tradition and culture with a powwow