Hundreds were in attendance at the ninth annual traditional pow wow, held by Conestoga College’s Aboriginal Services office on Saturday at the Doon campus.
Singing, dancing and drumming performers gathered from across the province to celebrate Indigenous culture and educate the public on their traditions and the issues facing Indigenous communities.
This year’s pow wow featured Charging Horse, a drum group from Peterborough, Ont., and their co-host, Cedar Hill. A couple of lead dancers couldn’t make the event due to some family issues, but the performance went on with some of the younger performers dancing in the lead positions.
Outside at the scared fire, a memorial was set up to honour Greg Ritchie, the 30-year-old Indigenous man who was shot and killed by Ottawa police during an altercation earlier this year.
“It’s really important that the public understands everything that our people have been through and everything we still go through,” said Matthew Rutledge, one of the dancers at the event. “I was a survivor of the ’60s Scoop and almost lost my heritage. Most people don’t even know what that is.”
Among the attendees were several Conestoga students who were getting their first introduction into Indigenous culture.
“There are so many Indigenous communities in this area; people are completely unaware,” said Katelyn VonGunten, a Conestoga student attending her first pow wow. “It’s important to recognize that they have experienced so much trauma and that we have a lot to reconcile for in our own culture.”
Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of the Conestoga pow wow and organizers are already getting started.