‘This is a competition, but it also has ceremonial aspects; taking care of our badges and our pens and how we behave’
The glitter and jingle of indigenous insignia filled the Saddledome Tuesday for the first-ever Calgary Stampede Powwow at the venue.
While powwows have been held at Elbow River Camp since Calgary Stampede founder Guy Weadick and Treaty 7 First Nations collaborated with Stampede events, this week’s event is the first of its kind at Saddledome , with $175,000 in prize money. money at stake
Indigenous dancers and singers from across Canada and the United States compete over three days.
“We always have competition at camp,” said Cheryl Crowchief, the powwow coordinator. “We have powwows as a celebration to invite non-indigenous, non-native people to come celebrate with us, learn from us, share our culture and ask questions.”
The competition is divided into several categories, including Ladies’ Jingle, Ladies’ Traditional and Ladies’ Fantasy, Men’s Buff, Men’s Traditional, Men’s Grass Dance, and Men’s Chicken.
The powwow will end with the men’s chicken because the dance originated in Treaty 7 territory, where Calgary is located, or Mohkinstsis, Crowchief said.
“If you look at a prairie chicken, you see the movements that it makes, and with the chicken dance, you see them mimicking those movements. Each category has a story behind it. And feel free, when you’re at a Powwow, to ask them about their history and where they’re from,” Crowchief said.
The Saddledome was aglow with colorful outfits Tuesday afternoon as the competition began. Crowchief said the dancers take pride in their outfits and appreciate the time they put into beadwork and design.
Cree dancers Raylene Hunter and her daughter, Ryley, who traveled from Treaty 6 territory to participate in the powwow, said they are thrilled to dance at Stampede.
They and several other family members helped each other put on their badges before the powwow began.
“I was dancing before she was born,” Raylene said. “I carried her while she danced so she was born in the circle, and before she could walk we had her badge.”
Raylene said that they enjoy competing as a family and support each other during competitions.
“This is a competition but it also has ceremonial aspects; taking care of our badges and our pens and how we conduct ourselves,” she said.
The judges for the competition were selected by two people with extensive knowledge of powwow. Each dancer’s scores are tabulated and those at the top of their categories will compete for prize money.
Crowchief said she’s thrilled more people will be able to see the powwow at the Saddledome.
“Visitors get the full powwow celebration effect. They get to feel the way we feel. First Nations people, when we’re at a powwow, once the drumming starts, the grand entrance and the prayers start, it’s totally mind-boggling and it gives us a sense of happiness,” Crowchief said.
“It gives us our strength.”
Melodie Ayoungman, head judge for the women’s categories, said her family has a long history at Stampede.
“My grandparents have been here since 1912,” Ayoungman said. “People from all over North America, Canada and the United States come to powwows and this is it. . . It’s a great event and it’s really cool for the people of Calgary to witness it.”
Admission to the Calgary Stampede Powwow is free with admission to Stampede Park and runs from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The junior categories will still be held at Elbow River Camp on Wednesday, Crowchief said.
“I honestly implore and invite everyone to come to camp. Enjoy our parties, enjoy our artisans and our traditional food at the bannock house,” he said.