Parents at Saulteaux First Nation are getting a first-hand experience in the art of powwow regalia making thanks to the help of Saulteaux Heritage School.
The school received a grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board to hire a course instructor for the program and has enlisted a couple volunteers to provide a little extra support.
Principal Audrey Night hopes parents can pass on the culture to their children by learning the craft of powwow dress making and continue this rich tradition.
“We have a lady who comes here. She helps with the cutting, designing, picking colours and the pattern-making of the outfit,” Night said. "It's a good initiative and it's part of our culture to keep passing on these wonderful traditions to our little ones. When you walk in the school now you can feel the difference, how doing more cultural activities in the school has made a tremendous difference."
The course is open to a maximum of 10 parents who have access to everything they need to make regalia for their children, including ribbons, beading, material for dresses and headdresses, and leather for moccasins. They can also use the sewing machines supplied for the workshops to piece together their creations.
This is the first year the school has offered the course.
“Hopefully, if it’s successful we will do it again,” Night said.
Both mothers and fathers are taking the course at the school Wednesday nights. The free 10-week program runs until April.
Night hopes parents who create powwow dress will attend the district powwow at the North Battleford exhibition grounds in May to see their children wearing the dazzling new regalia they are making.
Some of the types of regalia parents are learning to make include dress for the jingle, traditional or fancy dance, the grass dance, or even the chicken dance more popular for the boys' powwow. Some of the fathers taking part in the workshop want to learn how to make elaborate roach headdresses for their sons - an adornment commonly worn by male dancers in the powwow.
“It’s their choice, it’s their design,” Night said, adding many people select colours for their dress that are symbolic or represent forces in nature.
Since she has been the school’s principal for the past year and half, Night said she has worked to try to keep the traditions alive.
Saulteaux Chief Kenny Moccasin is proud of the First Nation community's work promoting culture.
"Three months ago we had cultural week and the kids were making bannock and doing hand-games,” Moccasin said. “They smoked wild meat and have done some native bead-work. The elders also took part in those activities.
"Lots of our elders are active in the community and helping our young people to try and get our language back. There is lots of cultural stuff in our school," he added.
Moccasin said youth start learning the powwow dance from as early as kindergarten.
“My daughter started dancing powwow at about four years old," he said, adding she is now 11 and still loves to dance the powwow.
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