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Dancers and drummers of all ages started off the powwow season once again at the Piikani Nation Youth Powwow.

More than a competition powwow, the June 20 celebration organized by Piikani Child and Family Services, also coincided on the same weekend as the summer solstice, Father’s Day and National Aboriginal Day.

“It’s a way for us to be there as a reminder to our young people that these kinds of ceremonies and these kinds of celebrations form part of our culture,” Kirby Smith, the youth coordinator at PCFS, said. “We want young people to be a part of that and to make good decisions, healthy decisions and to create positive roads in their own lives.”

Young powwow participants must learn to balance three aspects of healthy living. The more than 100 dancers rhythmically moving around the Crowlodge Park Arbour in Brocket, Alta. maintain a level of physical fitness and stamina.

But the event is also rooted in religious traditions says Smith.

“With the praying and the ceremonial aspect of the powwow we want people to acknowledge their spiritual side too,” he said.

Involvement in the powwows fosters an emotional connection to their traditional way of life Smith also believes.

“We want them to have some kind of conviction or commitment to doing something that is reminiscent of our traditional culture,” Smith said.

The powwow started with the grand entry when all the dancers accompanied a Piikani flag, Canadian flag and the eagle feather staff into the arbour and stood for a blessing.

Coming from many of the First Nations in southern Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the U.S., each dancer makes his or her own outfit.

“All the outfits that are made are done by the individuals. No two are the same,” Smith said. “They employ their own creativity in their outfits, whether it’s in jingle dress or traditional.”

There are competition categories that cater to every age range.

“That’s the beauty of our culture,” Smith says. “For all of our events and activities there is always an acknowledgement that everyone from young babies to our elders, everybody participates. There is a role for everybody...especially the powwows.”

Piikani-based musician, magician, hypnotist and entertainer, Trevor Kiitokii, emceed the powwow for another year.

"Powwow is one part of First Nations culture that was introduced in the late 1800's to early 1900's, mainly to stay connected to our history and culture after the introduction of residential school system," Kiitokii said. "First Nations gatherings were outlawed by governments. Therefore powwows are an evolved public practice mainly to retain and sustain plains people's ancestry and lifestyle. Powwow is not ceremony rather it is a social gathering."

He encouraged youth to participate and learn the difference between ceremony and powwow and that his role as the emcee is to share history while narrating the event. Powwow also facilitate understanding between adults and youth.

"There is a lot of understanding that needs to take place with powwow and there is a respectful process we older adults need in order to understand youth," Kiitokii said. "Maybe the powwow is a start - one medium to building a positive relationship so that our young people will become empowered and learn to be great leaders."

The organizers from PCFS promote cultural, healthy living and parent-based events throughout the year

“Our board and the whole organization is dedicated to making our community a better place,” Smith said.\

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