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Two-day Ryerson Pow Wow returns to Kerr Hall Quad

2019 Indigenous celebration includes an Education Week and Saturday social, vendor market
By: Antoinette Mercurio
September 10, 2019
From left: Anthony Warren and Josie Slaughter

From left: Social work student Anthony Warren and Josie Slaughter, creative industries, are two of the student leaders co-organizing this year’s Ryerson Pow Wow. Pictured behind is the Saagajiwe mural created by artists Monique Aura, Animikii Rhm and Edan Maxam. Photo credit: Alyssa K. Faora.

The Ryerson Pow Wow returns September 20 and 21, promising two days of Indigenous culture, arts, teachings, song, drumming and dance.

Hosted by Saagajiwe, a transdisciplinary Indigenous centre for research and creation based in the Faculty of Communication and Design, the powwow will be from 12 to 6 p.m. on September 20 in the Kerr Hall Quad – returning to the original space it was held in the 1990s. Having an annual powwow is one of the recommendations of Ryerson’s community consultation report in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

New this year will be an Education Week from Sept. 16 to 20 full of educational programming, workshops, panels and film screenings. On Saturday, the quad will have a community social, barbecue and vendor market from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Student initiatives

Similar to last year’s powwow, this year’s cultural celebration is student-led. Indigenous undergraduates Josie Slaughter, creative industries; Anthony Warren, social work; Karly Cywink, RTA School of Media; and Amanda Cowell, social work, are co-leading this year’s powwow through paid positions, providing employment and experience to Indigenous students.

Graduate students Riley Kucheran and Laura Heidenheim, who organized last year’s powwow, have taken on more of a mentorship role to the students.

“I saw the excitement during the organization of it last year and I wanted to be a part of it this year,” said Slaughter, who is from Listuguj Miꞌgmaq First Nation in Quebec. “Laura and Riley have set things up for us really well [in terms of organizing]. I feel more independent planning this. Everything is on a bigger scale but lots of people are involved [to get things done].”

For Cywink, who is from Strathroy, Ont., volunteering was a way to connect more with the Indigenous community – something she “felt was lacking” in her life, she says.

Campus-wide support

The foursome are leading two subcommittees of volunteers which include the Library, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, and Athletics, plus the Faculty of Science, School of Early Childhood Studies, School of Fashion and the Ryerson Indigenous Students’ Association. Financial Services also helped to make payment processes easier to pay vendors.

Expanding the team and bringing in new people from various disciplines was a goal of Kucheran and Heidenheim’s.

“So much growth has happened since last year’s powwow – so many more people are involved,” Heidenheim said. “Sixteen staff and faculty have been meeting since January to help plan Education Week, including collaborating with the Indigenous Students’ Association and Ryerson Students’ Union. It’s a huge network that just keeps building…..departments have been committing their resources in an equitable and accessible way to help with the event because they believe in it.”

In addition to funding from the Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic, the powwow also received $30,000 from the City of Toronto Indigenous Arts and Culture grant.

Below is a selection of events held during Education Week. For more information, please visit the Ryerson Pow Wow Facebook page (external link) :

  • Monday, Sept. 16 (external link)  – Treaty Education Panel, LIB 405, 1 to 2:30 p.m. – An engaging discussion about Treaties and how they shape our responsibilities to land and to each other.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 17 (external link)  – Medicine Teachings, Kerr Hall Quad, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. – Learn about sacred medicines in an interactive teaching based on the medicine wheel from Zaagidiwin, a Two-Spirit Ogichidaa-Kwe storyteller and artist.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 18 (external link)  – School of Fashion Beading Circle, KHS 252, 6:30 to 9 p.m. – The Beading Circle is an informal gathering for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants to socialize and bead together in a safe space. All levels of beaders are welcome.
  • Thursday, Sept. 19 (external link)  – SciXchange Hide Tanning, Kerr Hall Quad, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. – For the first time ever, SciXchange will host a four-day event starting on Wednesday, Sept. 18 showcasing the traditional Indigenous process of deer hide tanning as part of Science Literacy Week.
  • Friday, Sept. 20 (external link)  – Ryerson Powwow, Kerr Hall Quad, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. – The outdoor powwow starts with the Sunrise Ceremony at 6 a.m., followed by the community breakfast at 7:30 a.m. in the Upper Gym. Grand Entry starts at noon – you won’t want to miss it!
  • Saturday, Sept. 21 (external link)  – Ryerson Powwow's Closing Gathering/Vendor Market, Kerr Hall Quad, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. In addition to the closing social, there will be a Zines of Gratitude workshop from 1 to 3 p.m. to guide folks on the process of zine making, their history of resistance and how they can be used as a tool to remind us of what we are grateful for.

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