With all the Pan-Am Games activities coming up this summer it is no surprise that an official Pow Wow would be on deck. And its looking to be a good one. The one day festival has been organized by Suzanne Smoke of the Georgina Arts Centre and Gallery.
Smoke, together with the host organizing committee have brought a real heart and spirit driven purpose to be the focus of the event.
Smoke told the Two Row Times, “This event is about unity and speaking together in a cohesive voice, all the red nation people. And we have a strong message for the world about what has been happening to our people and the assault on our very existence here in our own sovereign land.”
This is a refreshing turn of representation for international sport tourism. All too often the bad taste of cultural misappropriation and tokenization of indigenous culture and peoples has stunk up the atmosphere of “accomodation”. But Smoke says not this time.
“To date this event is a native initiative; native run by natives for natives to engage the public and welcome 41 countries to our sovereign land.” said Smoke. “This is not sponsored by the Pan-Am organizers and no funding has been forthcoming from the Pan-Am organizers or host city.”
The host organizing committee consists of Smoketrail Singers, Bruce and Pat Smoke, Aaron Benson, Kim Newby, Jacob Charles, Ethel Chenowith, Laura Spring, Cedar Smoke and myself. Sacred Spirit Dancers are also the host organization as well.
Working alongside the host city of Markham, which has a multimillion dollar Pan-Am Legacy Building multiplex sports facility launched in honour of the games – came this idea for a Pan-Am Pow-Wow.
“Through the generous sponsorship of Great Blue Heron Charity Casino, We secured seed money to begin the planning process,” said Smoke.
Smoke has been working for a number of years with First Nations artists from across the indigenous world – representing First Nations artists with the York Region Arts Council and developing the Biindigen Gallery with the Georgina Arts Centre and Gallery.
Her experience bringing a culturally relative and accurate image of who the indigenous people are makes her the perfect person to co-ordinate this event.
“My role is as a conduit to build right relationships with non-native people and educating them on the magnificence and stature of our people and to re-evaluate what they have been taught,” said Smoke.
“I also wanted a key focus on the issues facing our people and make sure the world hears our message,” said Smoke. The pow-wow will uphold four pillars or four directions of awareness for the pow-wow: Honouring Aboriginal Veterans, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Our Sacred Waters and Truth, Reconciliation & the Residential School Experience.
Smoke said, “We are asking any of the people who have projects, displays etc. on any of these pillars to contact us to show the work being done by the Grassroots people in our communities.”
Those issues, combined with the strong team of volunteers and events they have going is promising to make this the must-attend pow wow of the summer.
Top Chef Canada Danny Raposo has also offered his services to prepare a feast for the dancers, drummers, veterans and elders. Smoke said, “We are currently looking for First Nations suppliers of buffalo meat, fruit and vegetables.”
The one-day event will be held in Markham at the Markham Civic Centre on June 27th. Grand Entry is at noon. Smoke says there is still room for vendors, educators and organizations to set up a booth. For more information you can email them at email@example.com.