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Indigenous U of T students are leading a pow wow revival

Indigenous students hope a celebration of their traditions will help make their presence stronger in Toronto.

Buck Neshkiwe (L), Trina Moyan, Sheilah Salvador and James Bird (R) are some of the student organizers of the pow wow taking place at University of Toronto this weekend.

Eduardo Lima / Metro

Buck Neshkiwe (L), Trina Moyan, Sheilah Salvador and James Bird (R) are some of the student organizers of the pow wow taking place at University of Toronto this weekend.

Students at the University of Toronto hope pow wows will make Indigenous people more visible across the city.

For the first time in decades – no one can remember the last time one took place on campus – Indigenous students are organizing an arena-style festival celebrating Aboriginal traditions.

“It’s a really big deal, especially because it’s set against the backdrop of the university’s ongoing efforts to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation report,” said Trina Moyan, a member of the Nehiyaw Cree and one of the student organizers.

“This is Canada’s largest learning institution, and it’s wonderful to see the commitment to the Indigenous cause and to celebrate our presence here.”

The downtown university has been among the first institutions to act upon recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

The school’s special committee recently issued 34 calls to action on reconciliation, including bolstering recruitment numbers of Indigenous students and staff and creating and increasing Aboriginal spaces on campus.

Organizing cultural events like this weekend’s pow wow is the first step in creating that kind of space, said Moyan. Not only will participants – Indigenous or not – get a chance to take part in drumming and colourful grass dancing, they’ll also hear and learn a bit about Indigenous languages.

It’s all about making sure the university leadership is taking reconciliation seriously and Indigenous history is given due spotlight, she said.

“We want all the students to graduate armed with the true, accurate history of our Indigenous people,” she added.

Details:

  • The pow wow will take place Saturday at the U of T Athletic Centre, starting at 1 p.m.
  • Events will feature smoke dancers, Aztec dancers, Inuit drummers and singers, and Indigenous food.
  • Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs who studied Medicine at U of T, is expected to attend.

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