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Pow-wow to showcase culture and talent

Posted on May 9, 2024 by Vauxhall Advance
Advance File Photo. CELEBRATIONS: Taber celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day in Confederation Park last year.

By Cal Braid
Vauxhall Advance
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Eagle Spirit Nest Community Association (ESNCA) presents Taber’s first Eagle Spirit Nest Pow-Wow on May 11 and 12. The grand entry begins at 1 p.m. on Saturday and all are welcome to experience the free event at the Taber Community Centre arena.

Lisa Sowinski, a founder of the ESNCA and the Indigenous consultant for the Horizon School Division, explained, “Eagle Spirit Nest is a multicultural, non-profit society with an Indigenous perspective. This event is new to everybody, so we’re hoping that we’re going to start a trend for our area. We wanted to invite other cultures, and this is something different.”

The pow-wow was initially envisioned as a multicultural event in which vendors and dancers representing other cultures would have a chance to showcase their identities. Taber Adult Learning assisted the ESNCA by reaching out and recruiting other cultural societies to participate.

Sowinski works in Zone Six for the school division, which extends from Milk River up to Lomond and Hays. The seed for the ESNCA was planted in 2017 and in Nov. 2018 the association “went legit,” according to Sowinski, who said that since then, the association has developed partnerships with local government, police, and a community network.

“I did the stats about five or six years ago and there were 26 different band cultures and Metis people living in all these areas with no resources. So I said to Andrew Prokop that we need to start creating awareness and helping our people here in the community. So that’s when we formed Eagle Spirit Nest, and with the newcomers coming in there are 38 different other cultures living in Taber. I thought it would be nice if we could all start coming together in reconciliation.” She said that there are people from nearly every treaty living in the region.

“It’s all about educational awareness, experience and cultural sharing,” Mayor Prokop said. “There’s a lot of interest in that. It’s part of Taber’s and Alberta’s roots. So this is really a big cultural exchange. The grand entry is a very impressive start to a pow-wow. It’s going to be a lot of fun and a very good experience.”

The grand entry begins the day with flags carried in and dignitaries appearing. All the dancers that show up to register will also take part in the ceremony. “It’s very powerful and energetic,” Sowinski said. “We’re expecting anywhere from 200 to 400 dancers alone that will register through the weekend and partake in the competition. This is a pow-wow competition.” She said that the head staff are very well known on the pow-wow trail; MCs Travis Plaited Hair, Tony Delaney, and Alvin Thompson, along with arena director Rusty Gilette are recognizable names that will draw in ‘people from all four directions’.”

In January, Town council waived $9,200 in facility and personnel fees in order to ensure that the event could proceed. Sowinski thanked the Town, the M.D., the public library, the Horizon School Division, and the ESNCA board, which have helped put the event together in a relatively short period of time.

Initially, four other cultural groups had signed up to join the event, but the number dwindled as of late last week. Nevertheless, the show is going ahead full-tilt and it is sure to be a celebration. The fact that organizers expect a strong turnout in its inaugural year bodes well for future events and a greater diversity of participants.

The pow-wow is open to anyone in the community or passing through. Over 35 vendors are expected to be on hand. “Grand entry will start at 1 p.m. on both days and we’ll go until we are done,” Sowinski said. “There are many categories of dance. Even though we may show seven payouts on the payout poster, under the teen and junior there are seven categories of dancing in between and if we have ten drum groups sign up, the drum groups are also competing against each other.” She hopes to see 1,000 to 1,500 people in attendance over the course of the weekend.

“It’s our community and we want it to keep going on the path and journey that it’s on,” she said. “We don’t want to turn anybody away and want to welcome everybody. We just want to share.  It’s about what we can do for each other.”

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