Demetre James Politis
Ojibway First Nation dancer Deanne Hupfield pointed to the traditional garments she wore in a performance mimicking a butterfly.
“Wearing this would have put my grandmother in jail,” she said. “So, celebrating right now with other Canadians is good because they can learn more. It’s an opportunity to connect with non-Indigenous people.”
The brightly coloured traditional garment thrilled crowds to the Culture Day’s Pow Wow on Saturday outside Humber’s Assembly Hall at Lakeshore. The event celebrated what was considered criminal just a generation ago.
On one side of Colonel Samuel Smith Park Drive, the Eagleheart Drummers and Singers played music as performers danced with their regalias, sometimes inspiring attendees to join in.
On the other side of the street, people made crafts, walked on stilts and enjoyed other festivities.
Hupfield performed the Fancy Shawl dance which she described as one of the newest Pow Wow dance styles.
“All of our dances are like prayers,” she said. “You have to learn for a long time to become a dancer. So, it’s not like other dances, there’s a lot of spirituality attached to it.”
Jen McMillen, Humber’s Dean of Students, said the event is a part of the college’s efforts to honour, respect and learn from the country’s first peoples.
“We have made some tremendous progress under the advice and guidance of our elders through our educational council and we’re really grateful for what that adds to our community.”
She said the event allows people who may not have had any exposure to traditions and ceremonies to actively participate in them.
“My three boys have come to this event every year since they’ve been born,” she said.
McMillen said knowledge, connection and meeting people are all critically important in order to achieve reconciliation.
“It’s too easy to say you don’t know anyone who is Indigenous or who is non-Indigenous,” she said. “The reality is when we come together in spaces that are welcoming, open and about celebrating life, I think we get that much closer to understanding.”
Deanne’s husband John Waaseyaabin Hupfield, of Ojibway First Nation who performed the Grass Dance, said for his community, every day is culture day.
“Culture Days means being invited to come and share what is pretty much every day good living for me,” he said. “It’s a really powerful time to come together, to eat food, visit and just have a bit of that feeling of home even if you’re not from Toronto, or this isn’t your home.”
He said Grass Dancing is about the responsibility young men in his community have in preparing the grounds whenever the they would travel to a new setting, which includes ceremony and song.
“Basically, it’s going around the plains and patting the grass down, preparing the grounds so that they were safe for people to dance, live and set up their homes,” he said.
Entrepreneur Todd Jamieson, of Oneida First Nation, hosted a booth displaying traditional woodland style paintings for sale.
“It’s a form of art that came about because we had no record keeping,” he said. “We started doing paintings like these to tell our stories. These are now our records.”
Jamieson said Indigenous people need to step up and be a part of Culture Days, to offer up their culture for all.
“It’s important to share our culture because if we don’t share it, we lose it.” he said.