Ryerson Pow Wow returns Sept. 21 to celebrate 20th anniversary
On Sept. 21, two graduate students are bringing an important Indigenous tradition back to campus for the first time since 2001.
Riley Kucheran, an Ojibway communication and culture (ComCult) PhD student, and Laura Heidenheim, a ComCult master’s student working towards Indigenous allyship, are the student leads of the Ryerson Pow Wow (external link) , hosted by Saagajiwe (external link) , a transdisciplinary Indigenous centre for research and creation based in the Faculty of Communication and Design. Open to the public, the community event will be held in Kerr Hall Gym and commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first Ryerson Pow Wow. Activities include a sunrise ceremony, Indigenous dancing, drumming, singing, craft vendors and more.
In July, the university unveiled a plaque next to the Egerton Ryerson statue on Gould St. that contextualizes the founder’s role in the establishment of Canada’s residential school system. Similar to the plaque installation, hosting an annual pow wow was one of the recommendations of Ryerson’s community consultation report in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The Ryerson Pow Wow marks the beginning of a series of Indigenous events taking place on campus throughout the year.
“The Ryerson Pow Wow is just another step on a long journey,” said Kucheran. “Our vision for the relaunched Pow Wow spans generations. We want to see it grow to a whole week of programming—community feasts, cultural teachings, creative exhibitions, film screenings, an evening concert and more. We want the Pow Wow to be written into Ryerson’s DNA, to honour our past while looking to the future.”
Kucheran met Heidenheim when he volunteered for her Shades of our Sisters (external link) research project, which documents and honours the lives of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Transgender and Two-Spirit People.
“When you attend a school named Ryerson, it’s important to understand the history and legacy behind it, and challenge settler colonialism,” said Heidenheim. “We hope students from all backgrounds come and experience how amazing it is to integrate Indigenous culture into our community.”
A pow wow is a traditional Indigenous gathering for community members from all nations to meet and celebrate their culture through music and dance. In 1998, Ryerson became the first Toronto university to host a traditional pow wow, which continued for several years.
“The Ryerson Pow Wow is a beautiful way of celebrating Indigenous presence and culture on campus and in urban centres like Toronto,” said Lila Pine, a new media professor and director of Saagajiwe. “We hope this becomes a recurring event on the Ryerson calendar that all community members participate in and look forward to each year.”