Bow Valley College hosts international competitive virtual pow wow
The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting countless celebrations and ceremonies worldwide to pivot and find alternate ways to honour traditions. Recognizing the importance of supporting the health and wellness of its learners and community partners during this time, Bow Valley College's Iniikokaan Centre set out to find a way to celebrate its annual Indigenous Awareness Month and provide culturally-relevant supports. The Centre's best practices of early community engagement led to an exciting partnership with the Tsuut'ina Police Service (Tosguna) and over 110 independent Indigenous peoples and Indigenous-serving organizations in just a matter of weeks to create the Collective Wellness Pow Wow on Saturday, March 20.
Before the prohibition of Indigenous peoples' traditional ways of being, doing and knowing during a national attempt at cultural genocide against Indigenous Peoples, pow wows served as a social gathering and celebration, healing and respect for inter-tribal relations. The pow wow remains a staple of traditions and social gatherings for all people to this day.
"When we enter the conversation circle, we must acknowledge that as a Western institution, we contend with an understandable amount of presupposed distrust toward colonialized institutions," says Metis Nation of Alberta member Catherine Koch, Vice-president Learner Services and Chief Financial Officer at Bow Valley College. "Our participation in the Collective Wellness Pow Wow is viewed as an authentic act of reconciliation in the community and part of our College-wide commitment to doing things in a Good Way through meaningful, respectful, and relevant engagement."
Bow Valley College welcomed its 6th president and CEO, Dr. Misheck Mwaba, who is from Zambia, Southern Africa. The College celebrated this accomplishment through respecting the traditional values of reciprocity with a President's Giveaway component. "Reconciliation touches on issues that resonate with me. When I hear stories of Canadian Indigenous peoples, it reminds me of my father, who grew up in a period of segregation imposed by those who colonized the land where I was born. When I reflect on these stories, I realize how important reconciliation is, and I hope to build trust in our actions," says Mwaba. The College is hosting a suite of awareness events for March Indigenous Awareness Month to help participants appreciate the histories and traditions of pow wow alongside workshops, allyship discussions, and Elders' teachings on Indigenous concepts of wellness.
The event's reach and success are due to the tremendous efforts and commitments of planning committee members, volunteers, College employees and trusted community partners who share a commitment to learning, seek mutual understanding, and prioritize relationships. The Collective Wellness Pow Wow took place March 20. A free virtual cooking class was offered prior to the official opening with Grand Entry. The day concluded with a live concert and Indigenous vendor market.