Okanagan College's annual Youth Exhibition Powwow goes virtual

Youth Powwow goes virtual

Okanagan College's 12th annual Youth Exhibition Powwow is going virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the last 11 years, the powwow has drawn hundreds of people and in times more than a thousand to the college's courtyard for a day full of celebration and learning with Indigenous culture.

Throughout the day, dancers and drummers from across the B.C. interior perform in a variety of dances including grass, fancy, chicken, jingle and traditional.

Event organizer Jessica MacDonald says transforming this event wasn't easy however the response she had was heartening.

“Given that many people are grappling with the challenges of working, learning and caring for family members at home during the pandemic, the decision was made to produce a short video about Powwow this year – which people can watch any time and in snippets – rather than attempt to host a lengthy livestream,” says MacDonald, the Aboriginal Services Coordinator at Okanagan College.

“Dancers from all over responded that they would still like to participate by submitting videos. We are really excited and grateful that we can still gather together to watch it online and take this opportunity to showcase, celebrate and enjoy Indigenous dancing, drumming and culture in this way.”

Many of the people who watch the Powwow are students from private, band and public schools. Some just walk across the street to view the event while others travel for hours to attend. 

Usually, this event acts as a fall fixture for teachers by providing a unique way for their students to learn.

“The format is different, but we hope it still conveys the warmth, energy and excitement of attending and participating in Powwow. We hope students and teachers will still enjoy watching and come away knowing more about Indigenous culture than they might have before. We hope it will still generate conversations, still spark questions and build a sense of connection in the ways that Powwow always has.”

This year's Powwow video can be viewed here.

“It’s been wonderful to watch the many ways in which Powwow has grown and evolved over the past eleven years,” says Hamilton. “This event continues to engage more and more people in important discussions about Indigenous knowledge and culture – and that hasn’t changed this year, even if the format has.”

“While we’re saddened we can’t welcome visitors to our campus for Powwow in person, I applaud the organizers for seizing this opportunity to still find creative ways to celebrate Indigenous dancing, drumming, singing, art and storytelling,” adds Hamilton.

Viewers will see welcome messages from Christopher Derickson, Chief of Westbank First Nation, City of Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, Gloria Morgan, Chair of Okanagan College’s Board of Governors and Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank all the Elders for sharing your wisdom and experience with us again this year, although in a virtual way. I also want to thank the dancers and drummers for sharing your energy and talents with us. Finally, I want to thank everyone who takes the time to watch the videos and participate in this important cultural event.”

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