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UCDSB Staff and Students Play Key Role in Akwesasne Powwow
UCDSB Staff and Students Play Key Role in Akwesasne Powwow
Posted on 09/23/2016

UCDSB Staff and Students Play Key Role
in Akwesasne Powwow

(Cornwall) – Thousands of tourists attended the Akwesasne Powwow recently, enjoying a variety of native dancing, singing, food, and arts.

But for dozens of aboriginal students and staff with the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB), the powwow offered a much deeper experience – an opportunity to connect with their community, celebrate native culture and preserve it.

Native student leader Tehaienkwarentohs Thompson, a Grade 12 student at Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School (CCVS), acting as a direct assistant to Volunteer Coordinator Richard Point, helped manage the efforts of dozens of student volunteers over the two-day festival, which took place September 10 and 11 at A'nowara'ko:wa Arena on Cornwall Island, Ontario.

“The powwow is held to show how we still have our traditional dances and we can invite other tribes and singers and dancers in and have a big festival and big welcoming,” said Thompson of powwows, a native tradition once outlawed by the federal government.

“The Akwesasne Powwow shows how we are still here and still doing whatever we can to keep our traditions alive.”

Thompson says the powwow has also been invaluable at developing his leadership skills.

“When I first started I was doing it just to get my (volunteer) hours and there was no other motivation,” said Thompson. “But as soon as I got into this role it started to become fun and was challenging for me to get things done as fast and efficiently as I could … I like the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.”

The chance to taste native fare such as strawberry drink and Three Sisters soup, to see dancers perform the Jingle Dance and Smoke Dance, and to hear native singers and drummers, also reminds participants of the value of native culture.

Laney Tahy is one of dozens of competitive traditional dancers who vied for prizes at the event. For the 15-year-old Grade 10 student at CCVS, the powwow is a chance to carry on a family tradition.

Tahy, whose father is a native dancer and artisan, has been dancing herself since the age of nine. She “grew up on the powwow trail” with her father, who performs traditional dances, and encouraged his daughter’s love of dance.

While there are monetary prizes, Tahy says dancing at the powwow is not about the prizes, it’s about the energy she receives from the crowd during a performance.

“I’m involved because it’s what I love to do,” said Tahy of competitive dancing. “I don’t just dance to compete. I love being out there and dancing and showing people my moves.”

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