British Columbia

Children's Downtown Eastside powwow a 'form of activism,' says organizer

Despite the rainy weather and grey skies, more than 50 children showed up at the Oppenheimer Park Saturday for the sixth Annual Downtown Eastside powwow.

'It's okay to be proud of your culture and your colour and your nation of people,' says Kat Norris

This year's Annual Downtown Eastside powwow focused on celebrating children. (Alex Lamic/CBC)

Despite rainy weather and grey skies, more than 50 children showed up at Vancouver's Oppenheimer Park Saturday for the sixth annual Downtown Eastside powwow.

In previous years, the ceremonies have celebrated elders in the community but for the past two years, the focus has shifted to honouring children, said Kat Norris.

Norris, who is Coast Salish, helped put together Saturday's event.

"Organizing an event like this, to me, is a form of activism because it's saying that we can," Norris said. "Our people have learned 'You can't do this, you can't do that, you can't, you can't.' We are showing that you can."

More than 50 children showed up to participate and watch despite the rainy weather. (Alex Lamic/CBC)

'It's okay to be proud'

Norris is a residential school survivor. She said events like the Downtown Eastside powwow, which focus on children, foster cultural pride and are a way to start to reverse some of the damage incurred by that school system.

"It's okay to be proud of your culture and your colour and your nation of people. It's okay to be Indigenous," Norris said. "We were taught to be ashamed of that through the residential school process."  

Kat Norris, a Coast Salish residential school survivor who helped organized the powwow, says events that focus on children are important because they help foster pride. (Alex Lamic/CBC)

As children and adults danced to the sound of drums, surrounded by applauding audience members, Norris said she felt proud to be involved in an event that brought the community together.

"Historically, our people weren't allowed to gather together, we weren't allowed to practice our spirituality or our songs," Norris said. "It's really important to bring that back to the people to show that it's okay and to give a sense of pride."

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