Sean Brady, Contributor Ω
Three aboriginal TRU students were honoured at the third-annual traditional powwow March 1 in the TRU gymnasium.
Graduating students Carl Archie, Nicole Cahoose and Renee Narcisse walked together around the gym’s open space as the host drum circle played an honour song to congratulate the students for what they had accomplished.
Each student was also given an eagle feather as a gift.
“Take a good look at them and always help them out wherever they go,” TRU Gathering Place elder Mike Arnouse told the crowd.
“It’s very significant. I’ve never received an eagle feather,” Archie said. “It’s been a journey I never expected.”
Archie said when he first arrived at the university in 2007, there wasn’t much aboriginal programming available. But after he attended the Pathways to Aboriginal Success conference that year, he saw things begin to change.
Now, Archie sits as the first aboriginal student elected to the TRU board of governors and as he prepares to leave the university, he said aboriginal students are much more visible on campus.
“We’ve tripled aboriginal gathering space and doubled staff,” he said.
With 38 First Nations bands in the university’s catchment area, Archie emphasized that it’s extremely important to have powwows on campus.
During Friday night’s events, band royalty led the grand entry as elders, flag bearers, tiny tots and chiefs danced into the gymnasium. “Honouring Our Tiny Tots” marks the second time the traditional powwow has been held at TRU. The night’s theme was calling attention to the next generation of Aboriginal peoples.
“It is such a great honour to see the young people dancing out there,” elder Evelyn Camille told the crowd as the tiny tots, clad in traditional regalia, danced in the center of the gymnasium. “I thank the committee and TRU for giving me this honour.”
“Everything we do, especially within our aboriginal community, is for our younger generations,” Cahoose said. “We’re trying to make things better and easier. Always.”
Three years ago, Tk’emlúps elder Gerald Carter had a vision of the tiny tots dancing at TRU. With the help of Shelly Johnson’s decolonizing social work class, non-Aboriginal students partnered up with Aboriginal students to make the powwow a reality.
“Whenever there’s a traditional powwow, we commit to hosting it for four years,” Cahoose said. After next year’s powwow, another family or group will have to take on organizing duties in order for it to continue.
“It’s a reciprocity sort of thing,” she said.
The powwow was organized by a group of about 30 Aboriginal students with the additional support of some TRU staff.