Ten years ago, you would have had to drag Connie Greyeyes out to volunteer her time at the Spirit of the Peace Powwow, then a fledgling event celebrating indigenous culture and cuisine.
Of course, things were different for Greyeyes back then, as she was struggling to stay sober and overcome addiction issues, and mourning the death of her father. She hadn’t even been to a powwow before.
But, her sister did the dragging, and it’s put Greyeyes on a journey ever since.
“I didn’t quite know what to expect, I was in a lot of grief and pain,” Greyeyes says.
“But, I found that when I went through my first grand entry, I felt that my dad was there. It was the most spiritual thing I’ve ever experienced. I was so grateful for it and I’m still grateful for it.”
Today, Greyeyes continues to run the show as she has for the last several years, and will see the event mark its 10th year in the North Peace community when the grand entry celebrations kick off at the Taylor Ice Centre at 7 p.m. this Friday.
“It is a very big year for us,” says Greyeyes, president of Spirit of the Peace Powwow Society.
“After the first couple of years, we could have never imagined keeping on going and getting support for this event.”
Indeed, that support has grown year over year, from the number of visitors to the number of dancers to the number of volunteers to the number of vendors that sell their food, their crafts, and their art.
“We’ve seen that little powwow grow to maybe a couple hundred people to upwards of 3,000 people who come through the doors,” says Greyeyes.
Just 100 dancers participated in the event’s first year. Last year, nearly 400 from across the province and the United States descended upon the powwow, and just as many are anticipated this year.
But Greyeyes says its the youth who have helped to push the event year after year — more than 20 are involved this year — coming out in growing numbers to volunteer their time and learn more about their history.
“It’s so important to make sure that youth come there and have that exposure to their culture and their traditions,” Greyeyes says.
“It’s been awesome. It nurtures volunteerism in them and a sense of pride in who they are.”
They’ve also taken a keen lead in ensuring the powwow remains a drug and alcohol-free event, on the lookout for those that are under the influence and asking them to leave.
The Spirit of the Peace Powwow runs from June 12 to 14 at the Taylor Ice Centre. Kick off begins at 7 p.m. Friday. The event starts at 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
The event is free, and will feature a number of dance and drumming competitions, and more.