For three days from Friday to Sunday, Sept. 16 to 18, singers, dancers, and drummers from B.C., Alberta, and the U.S. filled the Langley Events Centre for the first annual Stɑl̓əw̓ powwow cultural event.
Organized by the Stɑl̓əw̓ Arts and Cultural Society, which is based on Kwantlen First Nation land in Fort Langley, the event’s name translates to “big river” in the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language, a reference to the Fraser River and its role in the Indigenous communities living along its shores.
In a statement of purpose posted online, organizers said “rivers connect and enable sharing and new opportunities – and we wish for the stɑl̓əw̓ powwow to be an event that shares, honours and creates new opportunities to celebrate rich indigenous traditions and build important and lasting connections.”
One of the organizers, TsaTsomTun (Dennis Leon), cultural advisor, Kwantlen First Nations, on the stɑl̓əw̓ arts and culture committee, explained the long-awaited event has been in the planning stages for three years.
“Because of the pandemic that we’re getting through, there’s hasn’t been much powwow or gatherings,” TsaTsomTun told the Langley Advance Times.
“It’s awesome to finally be here and see all the dancers and singers. People are coming from Alberta and all the way from Yakima [Yakama Nation in Washington]. There’s a certain kind of energy that comes with the powwow, especially for the dancers and singers.”
One of the participants, William James from Chilliwack, a standout in his formal garb and headdress, was appreciative.
“Thank you to the people of Langley for hosting a wonderful weekend,” he said.
Kwantlen First Nation member Phyllis Atkins, program coordinator at the cultural society, explained that the powwow ceremonies are integral to many Indigenous cultures and carry great importance in the community.
Stɑl̓əw̓ Arts and Cultural Society describes itself as “a registered, Indigenous and women-lead non-profit organization” that is “dedicated to advocacy and empowering Indigenous artists living in Coast Salish territories in order to share their gifts.”
It’s focus is “to foster nationhood and to support the rebuilding of Indigenous communities, particularly through the development of opportunities in the arts, culture and language.”
People can support the non-profit stɑl̓əw̓ society online at stalewpowwow.ca/donate.
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