President Connie Greyeyes says the Society did worry that the change in format might feel different, but in the end she couldn’t have asked for a better event.
“All of the countless hours that the volunteers and the community puts in prior to the powwow is all worth it when you come there and you see that the arena is full of spectators and champion dancers,” she argues.
Greyeyes was happy that as hosts they were still able to do the little things for their guests, and the vibe stayed the same. That means important things like taking care of elders and dancers with food and drinks.
“We really do our best to make sure that everybody there feels welcome, to stop and tell every dancer, ‘Thank you very much for coming. We hope you come again’,” she says, adding that every dancer she spoke to said they would come back.
The Society must now decide whether it wants to hold another competition powwow next year, or return to the traditional style. Greyeyes argues holding a competitive powwow brings in dancers from further away, who are at the top of their field. Instead of a traditional powwow, where all dancers receive an honourarium, there are prizes for first, second and third place in each category.
“The competition powwow brings a lot of dancers, and we just are really glad to be able to come down and be there and try to learn something,” says Greyeyes. “You better bring your A game because there’s some real tough competitors. They take that risk coming down.” Everybody that dances know that they’re taking that risk coming down here, and that’s why it’s usually the good dancers that go those long distances, because they know they’re good.
Overall, Greyeyes says the change was well received, but that better clarity would be needed in the future over who is allowed to compete. As part of being “good hosts”, dancers from the Fort St. John area, not including surrounding First Nations communities, could dance, but could not compete for prizes.
“It’s about supporting our dancers; that’s what we do. It isn’t all about money.”
Photos from the Powwow are below: