Video: Inside the pow wow at Regent Park
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Video: Inside the pow wow at Regent Park

Here's what went down at the dance.

As summer came to a close and the back-to-school season loomed, the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre hosted its inaugural pow wow.

“The Restoration of Identity” was held in Regent Park on August 26, in affiliation with the Daniels Spectrum Summer Series produced by Artscape. The occasion was also a celebration of the cultural centre’s youth drum group, All Nations Junior.

The pow wow, a unique event not often held in downtown Toronto, was both a solemn ceremony in remembrance of First Nations survival, as well as a jubilant celebration of Indigenous culture, and Torontoist was there: 

The event kicked off with a Grand Entry ceremony featuring Eagle Staff carrier Rick Rogers, and flag carriers representing various First Nations, including the Ojibway, Haudenosaunee, Inuit, Métis, Mi’kmaq and the Mohawk Warrior flags. Premier Kathleen Wynne also made an appearance.

The celebration featured men’s and women’s dance specials, a coming out ceremony, and drumming and singing by hosts Smoke Trail and Coldwater Ojibway, as well as All Nations Junior and the Big Train Singers from Six Nations Reserve.

Judged competitions were also held for a number of categories, from women’s fancy dance to men’s grass dance and chicken dance. Participants ranged from toddlers to elders, and there were also intertribal dances where anyone, native or non-native could join in. The event included tributes to survivors of residential school and the Sixties Scoop, and Indigenous veterans who had served in the armed forces in both the U.S. and Canada, who were represented with a flag borne by First Nations elder, engineer and veteran, Kim MacDougall.

The free event was described as “a sacred gathering of indigenous people to honour the past, renew friendships, and celebrate with music, drumming, song, food, dance, and storytelling,” and invited members of the community, native and non-native, to learn about indigenous identity and culture, and to come together in the spirit of reclamation of identity and reconciliation.