â€œFrom the rez to the city, my people are you with me? You’re tuned in to the chief of the concrete city,â€ rapped hip-hop artist Wabs Whitebird at last Friday’s pow wow at Eastview Public School in Scarborough. Sharing insight into his experience as an aboriginal person born and raised in Canada’s largest urban centre, Whitebird’s a cappella performance provided a hip-hop interlude amidst the day’s traditional pow wow festivities.
Kids from the neighbourhood raced around the event, hopping from the playground to the barbeque and into the dance arena, where they joined head dancers Nadjia Melanson and Joseph Harper. On-lookers and vendors surrounded the dance arena, where three drum groups (two local and one visiting from Peterborough) performed from the centre of the circle, seated next to the flags and ceremonial staff.
This was the third annual pow wow to be held at the Scarborough elementary school, originally organized by Waabanong Head Start, a preschool program for aboriginal families in the neighbourhood.
While some may find grey high-rises and Kingston Rd traffic a curious backdrop for a pow wow, it shouldn’t be unexpected, as the aboriginal population continues to increase rapidly in Canadian cities. The 2006 census reported 54% of aboriginal Canadians live in urban centres. Nevertheless, some people are still surprised to learn of a pow wow happening in Scarborough, said organizing committee member Sue Rogers, going on to discuss what a meaningful moment it was in bringing the community together.
With National Aboriginal Day taking place on June 21st, the message Rogers hopes to communicate through the pow wow is one of celebration and awareness. She emphasized the importance of pow wow in teaching the next generation about their heritage so they will continue to keep it alive.
To check out some more photos from the event, click continue reading below.
Photos by Emma Feltes