In Photos: U of T’s 2019 Honouring Our Students Pow Wow

The ISSU held its third annual Pow Wow on March 16

In Photos:  U of T’s 2019 Honouring Our Students Pow Wow

Hundreds attend third annual Pow Wow at UTSG

Indigenous Studies Students’ Union celebration included food, dance, vendors

Hundreds attend third annual Pow Wow at UTSG

The Indigenous Studies Students’ Union (ISSU) held its third annual Pow Wow at the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport on March 16. It was a stunning celebration of Indigenous cultures. The event was brought back in 2017 after a 20-year hiatus and featured food, vendors, and traditional dances that attendees were encouraged to join. 

The event started with a Grand Entry, in which participants carried flags representing the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people, as well as the flags of Canada, the United States, and U of T. This was followed by a march for military veterans, which any attending veterans were encouraged to participate in. 

In an interview with The Varsity, fourth-year Indigenous Studies and Equity Studies student Chantell Jackson emphasized the importance of these celebratory events. “Every year it needs to be done because it just brings knowledge of Indigenous culture and community to a place like U of T, where you don’t often see a lot of diversity,” Jackson said. “It definitely draws on the positive parts of Indigenous culture and community, and I think that’s what not only U of T students but the community as a whole need to learn.” 

Master of Ceremonies Bob Goulais stopped on two separate occasions to acknowledge the tragedy that occured in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15, when 50 people were killed in shootings at two separate mosques in an apparent act of white supremacist terrorism. Goulais said that the Indigenous community stands in solidarity with the Muslim community during this time of mourning. 

Participating in Pow Wows is not something that Indigenous people were always able to do because of Canada’s settler-colonial system. In 1876, the Indian Act restricted participation in traditional Indigenous ceremonies and prevented Indigenous people from wearing traditional regalia. 

In 1921, Indian Affairs Minister Duncan Campbell Scott banned dancing on reserves, and Pow Wows only gained resurgence in North America starting in the 1960s with Indigenous rights movements. 

“It’s really important that we’re doing this, and covering all this music and dance,” Head Male Dancer and U of T professor Amos Key Jr. told The Varsity. “A lot of it just went underground; we didn’t do it publicly. That’s why I think it’s really important for us.”

“It’s healthy to move. It’s healthy for your heart and for your love of the heart; it’s all good,” Key told The Varsity. “I can’t imagine our people 100 years ago when we were dancing every night. That’s why they outlawed it, because the colonizers didn’t realize how important it was for health.” 

The recent Indian Day School settlement was brought up toward the end of the event to recognize Indigenous victories. In this settlement from the federal government, survivors of federally-run schools, many of which were established in northern Canada, received up to $200,000 as reparation for the abuse and neglect they experienced. 

Many of the attendees stressed the importance of these types of events in bringing awareness to Indigenous issues and bridging the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. 

“I think these events are important because it shows that U of T cares about Indigenous students, and it shows Indigenous peoples that they can be a student here,” Head Female Dancer Myopin Cheechoo said in an interview with The Varsity. 

ISSU Membership Support Coordinator Ziigwen Mixemong spoke to The Varsity about the value that Indigenous celebrations have to her and the community as a whole. 

“To me, it’s just a place that I can really unapologetically [be] Indigenous at an institution such as U of T. A hundred years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to even walk on this campus, let alone be in full regalia and be at a Pow Wow… Being able to even just dance in it, even just organize it, is a tremendous honour that I have,” Mixemong said.

“I often think that people who come from mainstream society, who are settlers, often feel this tremendous amount of guilt over what has happened, and I always say that it’s not about the guilt. It’s about the fact that we have inherited this history, and what do we do with it now?”

Indigenous Studies Students’ Union holding third annual Pow Wow today

Free event will feature food, dancing, celebration of Indigenous culture

Indigenous Studies Students’ Union holding third annual Pow Wow today

The Indigenous Studies Students’ Union (ISSU) will be holding its third annual Pow Wow today at the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport beginning at 11:00 am. In anticipation of the event, ISSU executives sat down with The Varsity to explain more about what students can expect from this celebration of Indigenous culture.

After a more than 20-year hiatus, the Pow Wow was brought back to U of T in 2017 as a way for the university to honour Indigenous students, as well as to provide an opportunity for the community “to get involved and learn a little bit more about Indigenous culture than just colonization,” said Chantell Jackson, a fourth-year student and ISSU executive member.

A Pow Wow really is just a big celebration,” said second-year Indigenous student and ISSU executive member Samantha Giguere. “It’s a place to come and have a good time and just enjoy Indigenous culture and tradition.”

The Pow Wow will feature food stands, craft vendors, drum groups, and dancers in a long celebration from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. After 6:00 pm, the event will move to Hart House for a feast hosted in the Great Hall. The entire event is free of charge.

All of the executive members emphasized that students should go to the Pow Wow expecting to have fun, to dance, and to eat good food.

“Everyone should come and expect to be welcomed, to participate, and to leave hopefully with their bellies full,” said Jackson.

The Pow Wow is organized with the help of volunteers and partners from all over Toronto and across the U of T community, and has received donations and support over the years from groups such as New College and the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education.

When asked why students should go to the Pow Wow, third-year student and ISSU executive member Daisy Enright said that, as a non-Indigenous person, the event helped her to gain a better understanding of her role as a “colonizer on this land.”

“[The Pow Wow is] so beautiful to see and there’s no way to describe it. Even pictures don’t do it justice,” said Enright. “I think everybody in their lifetime should go to a Pow Wow at least once. And if you’re at U of T, why not go to U of T’s Pow Wow.”

Adding to Enright’s comments, Giguere said that the Pow Wow acts as a reminder that “Indigenous people are very much still here and the culture is still very alive and vibrant.”

“This Indigenous celebration and Indigenous space belongs within the institution of U of T… It’s not an outside thing that is adjacent to U of T. It belongs within this place.”

Indigenous Studies Students’ Union offer helping hand

Sarnia’s Aamjiwnaang Jr. Hitmen hockey team receive support

Indigenous Studies Students’ Union offer helping hand

All it takes is one phone call. Earlier this month, the annual Little Native Hockey League took place in Mississauga. The league, which is for First Nation youth, consists of 209 teams and approximately 3,000 players. One team in particular caught the attention of the Indigenous Studies Students’ Union (ISSU) at the University of Toronto: Sarnia’s Aamjiwnaang Jr. Hitmen.

The Hitmen are a hockey team based out of Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia, Ontario. As a youth hockey team, they don’t receive a lot of funding. One of their coaching staff made a call for support, prompting the ISSU to take action. One of the union’s coordinators, Joshua Bowman, decided to lend a helping hand.

“They reached out to us for community connections and financial stability to see if we could make something happen,” said Bowman. With the help of the ISSU, the boys were able to afford teamwear and even have a party after the tournament.

As long-time fans of the Little Native Hockey League, Bowman and the members of the union felt that supporting the Hitmen was more than just an act of kindness. They hoped their actions could have an impact on Indigenous youth and groups in Canada.

“It’s a great opportunity for Indigenous children to flourish in an environment that’s designed for them,” said Bowman. The tournament seeks to provide players with skills such as fair play and sportsmanship, which will bring success on and off the rink. “It also makes the Indigenous youth proud to be from their communities and a culture that has historically been disenfranchised from them,” he added.

Bowman described the union’s collaboration with the Aamjiwnaang Jr. Hitmen as a success. “I just remember when I was a kid playing sports, getting a team jacket was like no other feeling quite like it. Walking around my school and showing everybody my team I played with, the group of friends that I had, just means that much more,” said Bowman.

For Bowman and his peers, bringing a little light to the kids’ day was a great reward. “In the end the impact was seeing the smile on their faces.”

Bowman added that this positive impact can help create pride in the kids’ identity, because in “a lot of educational institutions, such as ours, people have been made to feel ashamed of their identities.”

The ISSU, which is a course union under the Faculty of Arts and Science Students’ Union, strives to foster “respectful relationships within and beyond the membership in the spirit of the Indigenous values of friendship and community.” They provide services and support students who need a helping hand on campus and hold events, such as the annual Pow Wow, which brought in more than hundreds of spectators and volunteers. One of their goals is to make the University of Toronto a place where Indigenous peoples can feel accepted.

The ISSU exemplifies how people can come together and appreciate one another’s cultures. Still, there’s a lot of work yet to be done in order to create true equality. “There are media outlets everywhere that love to paint Indigenous people in a negative light, and it’s because of this Indigenous people are politically, socially and economically marginalized,” said Bowman.

Giving students, and more importantly, children, a chance to showcase their talents is necessary first step.

“We are just providing a platform for those voices to be heard, so by helping the Aamjiwnaang Jr. Hitmen and doing more events like these it’s a step in the right direction.”

“Unapologetically Indigenous”: ISSU holds second annual Pow Wow on campus

Honouring Our Students Pow Wow returns after successful first year

“Unapologetically Indigenous”: ISSU holds second annual Pow Wow on campus

U of T’s Indigenous Studies Students’ Union (ISSU) hosted its second annual “Honouring Our Students Pow Wow” at the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport on March 11. Spectators, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, gathered in the gymnasium to watch drummers and dancers, purchase art and merchandise from vendors, and participate in the overall atmosphere.

Highlights of the event included performances from Aztec dancers and Métis jiggers, as well as the Grand Entry, which featured dancers and flag bearers from various stakeholder communities involved in the powwow.

The powwow benefitted from the help of approximately 40 volunteers. Volunteer Coordinator and ISSU Membership Intake/Outreach Coordinator Olivia Miller told The Varsity that some volunteers had to drop out at the last minute due to extenuating circumstances, though other volunteers recruited friends to lend a hand. “It’s been this really great unifying effort,” said Miller.

Additionally, the ISSU received funding from colleges and departments across campus that contributed to the $24,550 powwow budget. ISSU Finance Coordinator Joshua Bowman said that New College contributed a significant amount. Among the major costs associated with the powwow were honoraria for dancers, drummers, and featured groups such as the Métis jiggers and Aztec dancers, which Bowman described as a way of paying respect to the gift those groups gave to the powwow.

Bowman praised colleges and departments who helped support the powwow. “A lot of us are all students in those colleges, so it was really just about supporting their own Indigenous students.” He added that many of the finances associated with the venue were covered in good faith.

Support for the powwow from across the university was a reflection of the community, added Bowman. “There is a larger amount of non-Indigenous students than Indigenous students, but at the end of the day what we like to remind people is that we’re all treaty people.”

Bowman described the Two Row Wampum, which represents one row for Indigenous people and one for non-Indigenous people. In between the two rows is a covenant chain, which Bowman said begins to rust over time. “So when we come together at events like this we’re polishing the covenant chain,” said Bowman.

The ISSU’s Membership Support Coordinator, Ziigwen Mixemong, was featured as the powwow’s Head Female Dancer and credited the ISSU for giving her a space to be “unapologetically Indigenous.”

“The powwow has just been a way that I’ve been able to use my gifts and my knowledge and bring that forth, and everyone else is able to bring their gifts and their knowledge and plurality of wisdoms that has helped develop this event,” Mixemong told The Varsity.

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“It’s amazing that we’re having our second powwow in only our third year. It’s come so far so fast, we’ve moved to a bigger and better venue and we are expecting so many people,” she added.

“It’s kind of like our version of a big party,” said Mixemong, explaining that powwows are traditionally a gathering of nations, referring to it as an “intercultural interaction.”

Canada’s federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, was in attendance, though she did not come as a dignitary as she did the previous year. Mixemong explained that politicians and dignitaries were welcome to attend the powwow, though the focus of the powwow was a celebration of Indigenous people and culture.

“We live in what I like to call a post-reconciliation world where people are trying to use the term ‘reconciliation’ to Indigenize their efforts without actually making sure that it’s Indigenous thought that’s going into that collective process of making an event,” said Mixemong.

Last year, the ISSU hosted the first powwow at U of T in over 20 years at the Athletic Centre. “When I enrolled in university, I never thought this would be a possibility,” said Bowman. “But now this is our second annual one and I don’t see us stopping anytime soon.”

For a brief time during the powwow, up to seven police cruisers were parked outside the Goldring Centre. Police were responding to a call of “a possible imminent threat to an individual who has a matter before the courts right now,” said Toronto Police Sergeant Aiello. “The individual was a victim and she saw the individual that is before the courts right now on allegations. She feared for her safety, and because of his instabilities we feared for the safety of the individuals here at the powwow.”

Police searched the building and dispersed after realizing the individual was not present. The victim was transported home to safety.