Manitoba

Seven Oaks grad powwow an uplifting, eye-opening experience for students from all backgrounds

A graduation tradition that started as a small powwow at Maples Collegiate almost a decade ago continued Thursday in one of Winnipeg's biggest indoor venues.

Now in its 9th year, reconciliation-focused celebration has grown into a large community event

Students from across the Seven Oaks School Division participated in the Seven Oaks Traditional Grad Powwow Thursday at the Winnipeg Soccer Complex North. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

A graduation tradition that started as a small powwow at Maples Collegiate almost a decade ago continued Thursday in one of Winnipeg's biggest indoor venues.

The ninth annual Seven Oaks Traditional Grad Powwow brought together children from across the Seven Oaks School Division to spearhead the reconciliation effort at the Winnipeg Soccer Complex North.

Seven Oaks grad celebration:

Students from across the Seven Oaks School Division participated in the Seven Oaks Traditional Grad Powwow Thursday at the Winnipeg Soccer Complex North. 1:35

"This division is always focused on connected people, connecting with our community," said Peter Krahn, one of the powwow's co-ordinators. "Who is part of our community? Our Indigenous community is part of us — we are part of them.

"To learn about each other's traditions and to emphasize the strength in that is one of the ways that we focus in Seven Oaks."

Krahn said people from all over Winnipeg and Manitoba are attracted to powwows because of the open and inclusive concept of the celebration.

One such person was eight-year-old Lacey Carlisle, a graduating Grade 2 student with Métis heritage from École Rivière-Rouge, who was one of the performers.

"I'm going to be jigging. I'm wearing what Indigenous people wear," she said, dressed in a Métis scarf, ribbon skirt and moccasins. "I'll have super much fun."

There were performers representing several First Nations.

Elisha Berens, with Poplar River First Nation, was one of the dancers that performed. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Elisha Berens, with Poplar River First Nation, was one of the dancers. She was dressed in a sparkling white outfit with blue detailing, meant to resemble a butterfly. She said her mother made it for her.

"Barely anybody dances and I want to represent our home [by dancing]," she said. "It means a lot because I get to show other kids who have never seen a powwow before. I am showing them our culture and what we do."

"[I think they will like it] because this is something new … all the different colours and all that."

According to Krahn, the ceremony is not only about Indigenous people, but also about the wider community.

He said it's an eye-opening event for settlers and newcomers. 

"It will an 'Aha!' moment, like, 'Wow, this is a cool way to get together and to hear each other a little bit, to participate and see a strength in that.'"

For Indigenous students graduating, he said it is an uplifting experience.

Now in its 9th year, reconciliation-focused celebration has grown into a large community event. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

"To see yourself lifted up, respected, honoured and your traditions valued I think is huge," he said. 

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