On October 14th, White Pines Collegiate hosted a student-led pow wow, organized by Aboriginal students at the school along with staff members Serge Pietramale, Chantal Anderson, Michelle Trudel, Jasmine Tass, Sherri Sewell and Darrin Corrbiere. Several student and staff organizers and participants were on hand at the ADSB Board Meeting on Tuesday, October 27th to share highlights of the day.
Student Jenell Desmoulin was the driving force behind the pow wow, coming up with the idea, supporting its development, and acting as a head dancer and presenter on the day of the event. The idea of the pow wow, which came from a sharing circle, was to have students come together for the beginning of the year and for all students to have the opportunity to participate and to learn about types of pow wow dancing and the pow wow experience overall.
White Pines student Dion Syrette took the lead in organizing the drummers for the October 14th pow wow and secured the White Pines Drum Group led by Phil Jones and including student drummers Makoons Boissoneau, Seth Mason, Isaac Hult, Bruce Soloman and Ashton Neveau.
Student Jasmine Teske, with help from Student Council, organized a canned food collection as admission to the pow wow. This was a WeDay inspired idea to help the community and the canned food went to St. Vincent Place and Pauline’s Place.
Mr. Pietramale coordinated the dancers and on the day of the pow wow had approximately nine dancers participating in full regalia, many of whom are students at the school. Dancers included: Jenell Desmoulin, Nakwaam Shawanda, Miishi Shawanda, Joseph Catches, Kara Perrault, Ava Gagnon, Sumer Mellon, Tristin Couture and Ayla Taylor.
Female dancers wore jingle dresses and fancy shawls and danced the dances that are named after these important pieces of regalia. Male dancers did grass and traditional dances.
Many of the 200 students who attended the pow wow from White Pines Intermediate and Secondary School joined in, encouraged by the traditional dancers and the chance to win spot dance prizes. The Grand Entry into the gymnasium (which served as the dance arena for the event) included students carrying the four colour flags (red, yellow, black and white) which are symbolic of many important Aboriginal beliefs. The colors represent the four directions, North, East, South, and West; the four virtues bravery, generosity, wisdom, and fortitude; the four colours of man red, yellow, black and white; the four ages of man, birth, youth, old age and death.
Comments following the White Pines Pow Wow:
“… it was fun! I learned about different types of Pow Wow dancing.”
“I really enjoyed watching many of my family members participate.”
“Drum group was awesome! It was great to see a lot of dancers”
“It was great to see our school come together to celebrate aboriginal culture.”
In addition to the drum circle, students ensured there was a sacred fire that burned outside for the day. The fire keeper was Darcy Wade.
Pow wows are significant events for Aboriginal people to meet, dance, sing and honour their culture. White Pines’ staff shared how impressed they were with the students who came forward with the idea and who then carried the idea through to fruition. An event like this requires lots of organizing and it was done well in a short time frame. Based on student feedback it was well worth it!