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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

South East Scarborough Pow Wow

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“From the rez to the city, my people are you with me?  You’re tuned in to the chief of the concrete city,” 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.

Head female dancer, Nadjia Melanson, with drum groups
Head female dancer, Nadjia Melanson, with drum groups
Intertribal dance
Intertribal dance
Head male dancer Joseph Harper
Head male dancer Joseph Harper

Note the teeny addition to his regalia... a purple Spacing button
Note the teeny addition to his regalia... a purple Spacing button

Photos by Emma Feltes



  1. Only third annual? I remember stumbling across a pow wowwish affair nearby at Galloway Park back around the 2003 provincial election…

  2. The Pow-Wow mentioned for 2003 was sponsered by a different group. I don’t know what happens each June at the Boys and girls club but it is not First Nations event that I am aware of. The South East Scarborough Pow-Wow Committee is formed from variuos agencies within the community to aid in celebrating First Nations history not only in the Scarborough area but in Canada itself. The agencies involved are glad to promote the adhesion betweem the First Nations people and the visitors who have come to this country call Canada.

  3. reading from minnesota, so glad to see the cultural organizing work going strong in ontario, and kudos for the positive news coverage!!

  4. In 2003 the pow-wow was organized by another group of peoples and am unaware if that is still happening. I am very pleased this celebration can be presented in the Scarborough area where there are many First Nations families, quite often it is difficult for a whole family to travel to the many pow-wow’s presented across Ontario, the pow-wow in Scarborough is a perfect opportunity to expose our future generation to thier heritage and to share with all other nations.
    “Congratulations South-East Scarborough Pow-Wow Committee” on planning well done. See you next year!

  5. Hey it’s my boy! looking awesome..I wasn’t able to go this year..went last year…it is a great pow-wow..which will continue to grow! 🙂