Renewing tradition and culture with a powwow

An element of First Nations culture is returning to Penticton this summer.

First Nations dancers performed for students at McNicoll Park Middle School Thursday as part of a five-day program at the school. Students also had an opportunity to learn about the dress and the significance of the dance.

An element of First Nations culture is returning to Penticton this summer, fulfilling the dream of a Penticton Indian Band woman and her mother.

Kristine Jack is one of five members of the reinvigorated Four Seasons Cultural Society, reviving a world-famous powwow, a deeply personal experience for her.

In 1970 Jack’s mother belonged to a ladies club which eventually formed into the Four Seasons War Dance Club, putting on an annual powwow from 1971 to 1978.

Jack’s mother died in 2001, and she told her daughter she did not want a traditional memorial, she wanted something else.

“She said ‘you need to bring back that powwow, you need to get the grandchildren of those who were in it and get the powwow going’,” Jack said.

A few years later Jack has helped realize that vision with the Four Seasons Cultural Society hosting what will technically be their first powwow July 15 to 17.

“We were family. People ask me why. It’s to remember family. The (club) was a big family. We travelled together, we fundraised together, we practised together,” Jack said.

The Four Seasons War Dance Club travelled all over B.C. and the U.S. in the ‘70s attending and performing at powwows. In 1971 they formed their own for the first time.

“It ended there. My mom got really sick and a lot of the older ones, they just got old,” Jack said.

There have been a few powwows since, but the society is focusing on the memory of the original Four Seasons club while moving ahead to the future.

“We wanted to remember those people that really put Penticton on the map back in 1970 because Penticton was really known for its powwows and salmon barbecue and that’s what we want to bring back,” Jack said. “We want to have a community event, meaning all of the Okanagan and hopefully more.”

It’s not the first time Jack has helped put together a powwow in the spirit of togetherness.

Jack’s mother was a trick rider at the Omak Stampede in Washington State from 1963 to 1967 and eventually became a pre-school teacher, looking to keep the Nsyilxcen language alive and getting linguistic education in Victoria.

After moving back to Penticton, Jack eventually followed in her mother’s footsteps, becoming a teacher at Skaha Lake Middle School.

“While I started working there I said mom I really need to get the kids here together, I don’t want them to see a colour and she said ‘do a powwow, get all the kids involved,” Jack said.

The event was held at Skaha Lake Middle School for seven years, and it is that community spirit that she hopes to bring to the Four Seasons event.

It took a few years for Jack to get the right board together, but she said she has a great group, including her daughter Marlee Jack, and now the ball is rolling.

“As the times are, people don’t have time, people are busy, so it’s taken awhile for us to get enough directors that were passionate enough to hang in there,” Jack said. “We got our society number and now we’re looking at the future, what are we going to look like in five years?”

There is a goal to host a dance at the South Okanagan Events Centre as part of the event in five years. Jack also hopes the powwow will have its own outdoor arbor in the future.

“We would love to have an area where we have that, it’s our own,” Jack said.

The powwow will transition to more contemporary competitive dance styles next year. The event is going to be an annual one, joining up with a stick-game tournament that started last year.

“This year will be our first big powwow, but basically we’re concentrating on honouring them, next year it will be about competition dances all those different new dances that they have.”

This year is the older dances harkening back to the dances of the ’70s.

“Some people coming, even young people who dance today will say ‘what? I’ve never seen that dance before.’ That’s really what we want to highlight, we want to bring back what used to be, but how it has kind of faded into how they do things today,” Jack said.

The Four Seasons Cultural Society is currently seeking sponsors and financial contributions for the winners of the dance and drum categories at this summers event, for more information contact Kristine at 250-490-9818.



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