President Connie Greyeyes explains that at a traditional powwow all dancers are given an honourarium, but in a competition format, there are prizes in each category.
“Just the competition brings in three times more dancers and competition drumming brings a lot of drummers. I think we’re going to have a huge powwow this year,” adding that competitors are coming from as far as New Mexico this year.
Judges look at several aspects of dancer’s performance, including how they dance and carry themselves, and their outfits. There are categories for dancers from eight years old to 55 plus, or the “Golden Age”, as well as buckskin dancers, who don’t compete and receive an honourarium instead.
Thundering Spirit from Enoch, Alberta is returning to be the host drum this year, instead of taking part in the competition.
Part of the decision to switch formats this year stemmed from a desire for local Aboriginal youth to see some “top notch” dancers. Part of being a powwow dancer is committing to living a sober lifestyle, which Greyeyes hopes will be a good influence on youth.
“That exposure to the kids, and the different outfits and other regalia, I think it’s going to be really good for our kids to see that there is a lot of people out there that do live this lifestyle. When you become a dancer, the idea is that you live a life of sobriety. It’s good for the kids to see that.”
She also argues the powwow is instrumental in giving Peace Region communities an insight into Aboriginal culture they might not normally get.
“It’s important for the community to see Aboriginal people in a different way, and actually really get to experience what our culture is really about. It’s so much more than people think and it’s not anybody’s fault that they have those thoughts. The reality is, if you don’t get any exposure to a different side of Aboriginal people, then you take what you see.”
The event runs from Friday, June 14 to Sunday, June 16 at the Taylor Ice Centre, with grand entries at 7 p.m. Friday, 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday. There will be food vendors, and those attending are encouraged to bring chairs, and dress modestly. This is a drug and alcohol-free event, and anyone is welcome – and encouraged – to join.
“When somebody comes down to the powwow, you can’t help but feel good, because all of those dancers are there dancing for you,” says Greyeyes.