The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) made history this year by hosting UTSC’s first-ever traditional Pow Wow and Indigenous conference, Indig-U-Know. Stretching from March 9–10, the event brought students, staff, and faculty together to learn more about the Indigenous community through stories, knowledge, and wisdom. The conference also featured panels, keynote lectures, and workshops.
A Pow Wow is an Indigenous celebration of culture through activities such as dancing, singing, eating, and buying and selling crafts. Non-Indigenous people are also welcome to attend.
UTSC’s Pow Wow took place on March 10 in the newly-built Highland Hall Event Centre, where Indigenous adults and children gathered in their regalia, ranging from colourful and patterned attire, to those decorated with fur and feathers, or adorned with beads.
Booths lined the walls of the centre, selling crafts, trinkets, and garments. Spotted around the venue were also various pieces of luggage packed with regalia, as some of the participants had come from as far as Alberta.
In the middle of the room was the drum circle, where musicians sang and played a big drum to accompany dancers.
The first dance before the Grand Entry was the Grass Dance. According to the event’s Master of Ceremonies Bob Goulais, the Grass Dance “resembles the beautiful, flowing grass that grows on the Great Plains” and blesses the grounds to make them ready for the other dancers.
At 1:00 pm, the audience rose for the Grand Entry, when celebrants, dancers, and dignitaries paraded and officially began the Pow Wow.
Some members of the SCSU helped carry flags during the parade, including President Nicole Brayiannis, Vice-President Campus Life Ankit Bahl, and Vice-President Academics & University Affairs Ayaan Abdulle.
UTSC’s Indigenous Elder, Wendy Phillips, spoke at the podium. She acknowledged the SCSU and thanked them for their work with the Pow Wow, adding that she hoped this event could be another way to reconciliation.
“I would just like to say how proud I am of [the SCSU],” said Phillips. “It was [SCSU’s] vision of supporting Indigenous communities… and this was one of the events that the SCSU wished to do for our community. I’m really proud.”
Wisdom Tettey, Vice-President and Principal of UTSC, also addressed participants. “On behalf of our university, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you,” said Tettey. “[This event hopes] to foster true reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples in our social structures.”
Following that, the Welcome Song was played by Young Spirit, a drum group made up of both Canadian and American members. Earlier this year, Young Spirit performed a Cree round dance song on the Grammy Awards red carpet in Los Angeles.
SCSU representatives, Dean of Student Affairs Desmond Pouyat, and Tettey also joined the Welcome Song dance performance.
According to Head Dancer Chop Waindubence, “This isn’t a ceremony, this is celebrating life.”
Bahl and Abdulle also spoke on behalf of the SCSU. “Indig-U-Know represents the student union’s commitment to continue to honour the first people’s land,” said Bahl. “We hope to be able to continue this tradition as we continue to fight for access to education.”
Indig-U-Know was carried out by the SCSU with assistance from Phillips, Indigenous and non-Indigenous staff, faculty, students, and student disability groups.