Singers, dancers, and drummers from B.C., Alberta, and the U.S. filled the Langley Events Centre for the second annual stɑl̓əw̓ pow wow 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.
Phyllis Atkins, manager at the society, said it hopes to use the pow wow as a platform to bring attention to issues impacting Indigenous communities.
“With everything the Indigenous communities have been through, we try to support each other and bring awareness to non-Indigenous communities, because we need to work together – we can’t do this alone,” Atkins said.
Over the weekend, dancers, singers, and drummers of all ages are competing against each other for prize money. Each day concludes with a Closing of Colours ceremony.
“It’s really fun… especially when it’s down to the finals, they really have to work for it,” Atkins chuckled.
She explained that the pow wow ceremonies are integral to many Indigenous cultures and carry great importance in the community.
The tiny tots category will have kids six and younger perform, and the junior class will feature dancers between ages seven and 12. Teenagers and those between 18 and 54 will have a separate category, too.
Artists aged 55-plus will participate under the golden age category. Atkins shared that the head staff will judge the regalia of the group members, in addition to the dance moves or drum beats.
All except kids six and younger will compete for up to $100,000 in prize money.
In addition to the various cultural programming, stɑl̓əw̓ will be hosting 50-plus Indigenous vendors and two food trucks present, all providing authentic Indigenous food, art and crafts for purchase.
The final day of the weekend-long event is Sunday, Sept. 17.
Doors open to the public at 11 a.m. and begins with a Blessing of Floor ceremony by Grass Dancers, followed by a grand entry and opening remarks by Chief Harley Chappell of the Semiahmoo First Nation.
The pageant and crowning takes place at 1:30 p.m., as well as the Golden Age contest and Tiny Tots, among others.
A full schedule of events can be viewed at stalewpowwow.ca.
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.