Dancers and drummers filled Servus Arena with the spirit of Indigenous culture during the third annual Waskasoo Seepee Traditional Pow Wow on Monday.
Hosted by Red Deer Native Friendship Society, Remembering the Children Society and other community organizations, the powwow is called Remembering the Children in honour of the Indigenous kids who were sent to abusive and repressive residential schools in Canada.
Students from the Red Deer area filled the stands to watch the Grand Entry at noon.
Lianne Hazell, executive director Red Deer Native Friendship Society, said about 1,400 students were expected out.
“It’s really good to have all of these students here so we can celebrate the lives of children here today, and the excitement, while we’re still remembering all the children who didn’t make it home,” Hazell said.
“This is about reconciliation and celebration of the children.”
Mayor Ken Johnston, who was among the dignitaries participating in the Grand Entry, said educating children about Indigenous culture will help carry it forward to enrich the community.
“It’s going to transform our city, transform our province,” Johnston said.
He said it’s quite emotional to be part of such an event and it’s a shame that they were outlawed by authorities in the past. Preventing these celebrations of culture would have had a devastating impact on Indigenous populations.
“Today however in the spirit of reconciliation, and frankly humanity, we’re coming together and understanding each other in a totally different way, in a totally healthy way.”
June is National Indigenous History Month.
Hazell said powwows are gaining in popularity.
“In 2019, we thought there were going to be 800 people and we ended up with 3,000. So this year we planned for 3,000 and I think we’re going to have more than that.
“There’s so many people here. It’s amazing.”
The second Grand Entry was to be held at 6 p.m, followed by more dancing.
Admission was free, but non-perishable donations were gratefully accepted for Red Deer Food Bank.