Refugees and new arrivals boarded four Winnipeg Transit buses to attend the powwow at Assiniboia Downs, a 350-acre equestrian center located in the Winnipeg suburb of St. James-Assiniboia. The event began on Friday 19 May and ran through the entire weekend.
Dalila Lokwa, originally from Congo, came with her mother and 18-month-old daughter Shamsa Yahyoi. He said it was the first time he had attended a powwow.
It is good experience for me. I loved it. I thought of the Brazilian Carnival. It was very colorful and beautiful. A quote by Dalila Lokwa, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Her mother, Shamsa Muhammad, originally from Uganda, says she loves the powwow. It was nice to be here and talk to so many different people, he said.
This initiative to connect newcomers with Indigenous peoples is made possible in collaboration with the Mosaic Newcomer Family Resource Network, Immigration Partnership Winnipeg and the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba.
This is the second year in a row that veteran powwow dancer Clayton Sandy has invited immigrant and refugee organizations to participate in the Manito Ahbi festival. Nearly twice as many people have signed up this year, he said.
Many of them had never been to a powwow. I really like today’s entrants because they are very energetic, they want change and they are willing to work with anyone. A quote from veteran indigenous dancer Clayton Sandy.
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Sandy, a member of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, said some of the newcomers have pointed out similarities between their cultures after experiencing the powwow. Workshops were also held to explain the meaning of the powwow dance and costumes to the newcomers.
As a child of the scoop of the 1960s, when Indigenous children were systematically given up for adoption to non-Indigenous families, and as the child of parents who were sent to a residential school for Indigenous children Moved to where there was an attempt to erase their identity and indigenous culture, Sandy says she shares the trauma of being uprooted that many newcomers experience as well.
Sandy sees the Powwow as an opportunity to build bridges between the newcomers and the indigenous people.
Nothing will change until we start building relationships and partnerships. We are educating a lot of people, but we are also passing it on to our children. A quote from Clayton Sandy, veteran indigenous dancer.
Sherin Denetto, director of the Manitoba Immigrant and Refugee Communities Organization, agreed that the powwow was an opportunity to educate and showcase Indigenous culture in all its glory.
He explained that immigrants and refugees are not really well informed about the strength, traditions and customs of the indigenous people.
Indigenous people Clayton Sandy, Wright, and Raymond Curry collaborated on reconciliation circles inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.
Impact of contact
The families who participated in last year’s Manito Ahbi Powwow talked about the event for months.
They didn’t know these vibrant communities existed around them, so it had a profound effect, Denetto explained.
Mihret Teki, a Sudanese refugee originally from Eritrea, said she had waited weeks to attend the POW and had brought her children and cousin.
She explained that it was her first time attending an Indigenous event in Canada and that she was looking forward to seeing the dancers and their costumes.
We live separate from them here in Canada, so we wanted to know what their culture is like,” said Takei, thanking the organizations responsible for that contact for giving newcomers a chance to experience POW.