KPU’s Fourth Annual Pow Wow a Celebration of Aboriginal Culture


A regalia-wearing Pow Wow dancer shows off his moves in the Traditional style dance competition during KPU’s fourth annual Pow Wow on Sept. 24, 2016. Each dancer has worked on creating their own unique regalia over their entire career, which can often span a couple of decades. (Braden Klassen)

The event featured stunningly elaborate regalia, and equally stunning dance moves

Over the course of ten hours on Sept. 24, KPU held its fourth annual Pow Wow in the Cedar building’s gymnasium. A variety of dance competitions were held throughout the day, and willing participants were invited to don their traditional regalia and dance in the hopes of taking home a cash prize.

Besides the dancing, a number of vendors were set up in and around the gymnasium, selling everything from bumper stickers and beadwork to paintings to jewelry.

“I’ve been doing this since 2012,” says Johnny Perry, a vendor who runs an Aboriginal artist’s healing group for people who have been affected by the traumatic aftermath of Canada’s residential schools. “I really like seeing people display their work and their art, so that’s what I get out of it. I like seeing people succeed in their own way.”

“Each person is really different, and this is a part of their income too, because a lot of times they’re on a really limited income. We try to keep prices reasonable so everybody can afford it. It’s not as expensive, like if you went into Gastown or Granville Island.”

Perry says he often travels around to different Pow Wows and conventions to set up and run his vendor space.

“I do probably, on average, about two or three a month just in the Lower Mainland area,” says Perry. “I go out to Kamloops about once or twice a year, but there’s enough in Vancouver. I work full-time as a support worker as well, and I work for Vancouver native housing, so I obviously like to keep really busy.”

“[The Pow Wow] means a lot to me,” says Estrella McKenna, who, along with her son Zactzevul, participated in the Pow Wow dance competition. “I come here with my family. I have four children and they all dance. I put a lot of care and attention into the regalia and we put a lot attention into our practicing. It’s a social event, it’s a spiritual event, it’s a cultural event. It’s just a way of life.”

For two hours every Monday, McKenna practices her dance in a gym with some friends.

“Some people practice every day at home, some people don’t practice at all,” she says. “It’s a place to show your spirit, in a way. You see everyone in there in their street clothes, and a lot of times people won’t be recognized until they’re in their regalia.”

McKenna has been dancing for about twenty years, since she was child. She also says that, like Perry, she often travels around to participate in different community Pow Wow events.

“We travel long distances to Pow Wows—they’re all across North America. We’ve been to New Mexico, we’ve been to Manitoba. It’s a way to see north America and share the culture,” says McKenna. “There are no two regalias alike, or dances. Everything is unique, it’s about being unique and sharing uniqueness with each other.”



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