Monday, June 26, 2023
Return of powwow a profound event for PSHS community
The Parry Sound High School (PSHS) powwow is a significant and deeply meaningful event for the school’s Indigenous students and the broader school and local community.
The annual powwow has a decades-long history in the Parry Sound community, having first originated as a social organized by Wasauksing First Nation and the Anishinaabek Club.
PSHS Indigenous Studies and Anishinaabemowin teacher Johna Hupfield explained the creation of the powwow. “Many years ago, knowledge carrier Luci Rice worked on Wasauksing and ensured Indigenous youth had a safe space every Thursday at PSHS to drum, share cultural ideas and overcome racial challenges.”
The creation of the school drum and the importance of the school powwows and socials was documented in a book created by five PSHS students called Building Our Bridge: Our Journey of Reconciliation and received national recognition.
The event has long been organized by members of the PSHS student group Oshki Shkode. Having been on hiatus during the pandemic, this year’s event was meaningful for the school, and particularly for outgoing Indigenous Student Trustee Allen Lewis Trodd.
“We haven’t had the powwow since I started high school in Grade 9. We needed to have it again and bring the youth together. It’s a big part of our culture and our high school history,” Trodd said. “For me, this shows resilience. It makes me happy and proud to see what the youth can do when they come together. It’s amazing to see the students come together to drum, to sing and to dance. It’s also an opportunity to show their culture, who they are to Parry Sound.”
The event also plays an important role in student learning with course connections being made throughout the planning and execution of the event.
“It is a teaching powwow where youth are learning about First Nation culture, values and beliefs,” Hupfield said. Students learn about cultural identity, worldview, life skills, community connections and collaborations, respect for rights of Indigenous people and land reclamation.
“Typically, a group of students step forward to take on the roles planning coordinators for and other students and classes complete work as part of class projects and learning,”
Hupfield said. “It’s super meaningful. Powwow gathers us, we share skills in cooking, share First Nation culture and history.”
Students Reese Pamajewong, Kaiden Tabobondung, Karly Stevens, Korbin King and Tristan Lajambe facilitated and coordinated the budget, community invitations, communication with local media, organized teachers and students and much more to make the powwow a reality.
“We are a unique school with five First Nations attending but also with Indigenous, Métis and a small Inuit community who attend as well, Hupfield said. “Reclamation of culture and identity is happening in this generation. It is part of the reason the youth have called themselves Oshki Shkode, the New Fire.”
“We’ve been planning since last year. It takes a long time. We have to arrange the agenda, organize drummers and emcees, the invitation list and secure funding from the board,” Trodd said.
Supported by the Near North District School Board Indigenous Education team, additional funding for the event was also provided in partnership with the Anishinaabek Education System’s Niigaan Gdizhaami Fund of which Wasauksing First Nation is the grant holder.
“I’m a drummer so seeing all the drum groups come together is a highlight. We have groups from Moose Deer First Nation, the high school and Wasauksing First Nation, Trodd said. “It’s different, being able to wear our regalia in front of everyone. It used to be shunned but now it’s our pride, we are here to show off. It takes a lot of bravery and courage.
“I’m happy to see elders and babies here, I’m happy that the high school is able to bring this kind of event not just to the school but the whole community,” Trodd said.