By Cal Braid
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Representatives of the Eagle Spirit Nest Community Association (ESNCA) appeared as a delegation before town council on Jan. 22. Theron Black, a Blackfoot cultural advisor, spoke to council about a proposed ‘multicultural pow-wow,’ the first of its kind in Taber. He showed council a short video clip of pow-wow footage and afterwards commented, “You can see the energy that comes from these kinds of multicultural events that we’re going to be doing; that’s what we’re planning on doing for the Town of Taber.” Black told council that he and his wife had both recently finished Masters of Education degrees and were now working on doctorate degrees. He said the two travel together, building relationships and gaining insights into differing mindsets. He promoted “working with reconciliation and trying to bring education to our ceremonies and what we have to offer and seeing the good side of our people. A lot of our people don’t drink or do drugs; a lot of our people are into ceremonies and into building relationships here in southern Alberta.”
Lisa Sowinski, president of ESNCA, sent a letter to council that was included in the meeting agenda. In it, she thanked Mayor Prokop for reaching out to the Association as a potential partner for the town’s first pow-wow. “This will be a unique event as we hope to incorporate multiple cultures at the pow-wow. This event will be free of charge and will be open to the public. We will celebrate the richness of Indigenous dancers, drummers, and artisans, while offering a place for non-Indigenous people to experience and learn,” she said.
The organizers will invite people of other cultures to perform their dances during breaks in the pow-wow and artisans and food vendors from all cultures will be welcomed too. Sowinski said the special event will benefit Taber both economically and socially. The ESNCA’s mission statement calls on it to “improve and enhance the lives of Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members by providing educational workshops (and) youth programming with a cultural respect by moving forward…to support a place of diversity, learning and healing from one another.”
May 11 and 12 were proposed as dates for the pow-wow. Sowinski said, “Between 2007 and 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hosted seven national events and heard from more than 6,500 witnesses about the history and legacy of Canadian residential schools. This process initiated 94 ‘Calls to Action’ which have been an important initial step to rebuilding relationships between Indigenous peoples and the rest of Canada. We are excited that Taber is embracing the Calls to Action with the proposed pow-wow.”
Coun. Bekkering expressed admiration for the efforts to make the event happen, and asked Black how he would go about attracting other cultures to it. “What we’re going to try to do is the ESNCA will go to the other ethnic associations in Taber (to do) a presentation with them.” The hosts will offer those groups a time and place to perform and share their cultures amongst the pow-wow activities.
Coun. Sorenson told Black that she enjoyed the presence of Indigenous dancers at last year’s Cornfest. Sorenson told him, “In our Arts and Heritage Committee we really try to find different avenues to bring all of our cultures together, so I appreciate you wanting to do this too and commend you for that.”
Mayor Prokop affirmed the efforts and thanked Black for last year’s invitation to a Lethbridge pow-wow. Regarding the video footage Black presented, the mayor said, “I think that video sort of says it all. ‘Electric’ is probably an understatement of what was going on there if you were in the middle of it. I can’t speak highly enough of it.”
Black said he expects to attract 1,000-1,500 people to the event. Sorenson made a motion to go ahead with planning and waive $9,200 in facility and personnel fees with funds to come from the Council Discretionary Fund. All but Coun. Brewin voted in favour, and it was carried. More details to come as plans move forward.