The thunder of drums roaring through the air was a welcoming call inviting people from all nations to gather together at Brock University Friday, Jan. 19.
Hundreds of people packed into Ian Beddis Gymnasium to take part in a Pow Wow hosted by Brock’s Hadiya’dagénhahs First Nations, Métis and Inuit Student Centre, and the Office of the Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement.
The gathering began with a grand entry that welcomed Elders, veterans, Brock leaders, dignitaries and dancers in traditional regalia, followed by alumna and Head Dancer Kendra Jessie Rosychuk (BSM ’21) inviting attendees to the floor as the sound of traditional songs and drums flowed through the gym.
While music and dance were among the highlights of the day, the Pow Wow also featured a vendor fair of Indigenous entrepreneurs and speeches from Brock’s Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement Robyn Bourgeois and President Lesley Rigg.
The event was James Gowland’s first Pow Wow. The fourth-year Medical Sciences student said seeing so many people in attendance, including roommates and familiar faces he had invited from his classes, was an emotional experience.
“As an Indigenous student, I feel a sense of community seeing everyone coming out and supporting us,” he said. “Events like this have helped me to become more comfortable in my own identity.”
Gowland also works as a student staff member in Hadiya’dagénhahs and said the efforts of the centre to create a welcoming and inclusive event were seen by all in attendance.
“To have an event right here at Brock that celebrates and focuses on the positive of bringing people together is good for everyone,” he said. “It also shows our Indigenous students and community members that we have a place here and we are celebrated.”
Hadiya’dagénhahs Event Co-ordinator Willow Shawanoo-Kechego said the participation from so many community partners was particularly inspiring.
“I think watching all of our nations come together in our Indigenous community is rewarding for me and for our students to see the support they have, not just from within our walls but also beyond them,” she said.
As she gazed upon the smiling faces of the dancers, drummers and friends from near and far, Shawanoo-Kechego said the Pow Wow’s legacy would be felt for years to come.
“This event will have a lasting impact on our next seven generations, planting seeds and honouring students yesterday, today and tomorrow,” she said.