For the first time since settlers came to the Okanagan, the Penticton Indian Band’s Pow Wow Between the Lakes will be held in the city.
The theme of the event, planned for June 23 to 25, is Healing the Nation and is intended to bring together the eight bands of the Okanagan Nation Alliance in celebration of Syilx culture and resilience.
Members of the Four Seasons Cultural Society, MP Richard Cannings, city staff, the mayor of Penticton and Chief Greg Gabriel of the Penticton Indian Band were all at the South Okanagan Events Centre in SnPink’tn (Penticton) on Jan. 25 to announce the hosting of the Pow Wow at the SOEC.
The announcement included handing down the reins of the event from one generation to the next, with current society executive director Kristine Jack passing over the eagle feather to Haley Regan.
“I feel like that the role I have been blessed with is for a reason, and the goal that I have for the pow wow to have it as inclusive as possible is something I know Kristine wanted for the future of the society,” Regan said.
As part of efforts to make the event more inclusive, and to celebrate the two-spirited members of the community, there will be a two-spirited special event at the pow-wow. Supporting those marginalized and vulnerable groups, some who are ostracized from their own communities, is an important focus of Regan’s. So is the focus on other vulnerable members of society.
“We will also be holding an Overdose Awareness Round Dance,” said Regan. “That is to honour the people we’ve lost, the people who have lost someone, the people we are scared about losing and the people who are still struggling every day to overcome their addictions.
“I brought it up after Truth and Reconciliation Day, little did I know that less than a month later my brother would, unfortunately, lose his life to his addictions. So that is something I’m personally taking on, and I’m excited to have my nephews come up and introduce that dance.”
Jack grew up watching her family in the 1970s organize the pow wows back then before it was silenced until 2015, when she helped to organize its revival. Now, she is looking on with pride as it has continued to grow and bring together not only the members of the Okanagan nations but Indigenous communities across the continent.
“When I first started organizing the pow wow with my kids, they weren’t sure if we could do it again the next year. Eight years later here we are,” said Jack. “I am so proud. Today the poster is going to go all over the United States, all over Canada and so many dancers just waiting for the location and the dates.”
Healing the Nation, the theme of the pow wow, not only speaks to the importance of bridging connections impacted by the Covid-19 Pandemic, but also to the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation. Both Chief Gabriel and Mayor Julius Bloomfield spoke to the importance of actions like hosting the Pow Wow Between the Lakes at the SOEC as steps forwards and towards reconciliation.
“It’s not going to fix it, but it certainly means a lot when you bring all the communities together and the message goes throughout our nation,” said Gabriel. “It’s great to bring everyone together and the general public should come out and see what a pow wow is all about, how our nations in the past have come together to continue our traditions, the lifelong memories that are created at these kinds of events.”
Essential to this year’s event is the support of the City of Penticton and OVG360, who operates the SOEC. The two organizations are providing in-kind support to make it possible for the event to be held at the facility.
“I think having the event within the city is a reminder that Penticton and all the other municipalities in this area are on the traditional territories of the Syilx people,” said mayor Julius Bloomfield. “These are magnificent events, just the spectacle of the dances, the drumming, and the singing, just culturally they are amazing and I really encourage everyone non-Indigenous to come and experience it.”
With less than six months until the pow wow, society members are looking for sponsors, contributions and volunteers. Anyone interested in supporting the premiere of the pow wow in Penticton, is invited to contact the society at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The society is looking for sponsorships for the dance and drum competition prizes, volunteer t-shirts, signage and banners, media and more.
Tickets will be available closer to the event through the SOEC. The event begins with the first Grand Entry on Friday, June 23 at 7 pm. Saturday’s competition will begin at 1 pm and continue at 7 pm. The event will wrap up on Sunday with the final competition at 1 pm. Food and arts and craft vendors will be on-site throughout the weekend.
“So many people were asking me whether I think we can fill the SOEC,” said Jack. “I told them, ‘Fill it? We’re going to have people lining up outside to see it.’”
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