I don’t know what it is about a teepee, considering I have only been in one a few times, but whenever I see one in the city, I get that feeling of being home, a sensation of being back in the womb. On Friday, September 19, as I showed up at the McGill Campus for the second annual Pow Wow held by the McGill First Peoples’ House, the first thing that greeted me was a Teepee, and I instantly felt comforted. The usual unmistakable sound of the drumming was eaten up by the passing traffic on Sherbrooke St., so at first I wasn’t even sure there was a Pow Wow happening. But the trusty teepee standing tall and proud let me know that ‘hey, here it was!’
Although it was a small gathering, one could sense the hope and enthusiasm given off by all attendees.
There are many native students attending McGill, however school administration policies prevent one from knowing exactly how many are registered at the university. Ellen Gabriel, coordinator of the First Peoples’ House, estimates that there are easily over 240 enrolled. Comprising such a small population of the university yet considering the importance in Canadian history of the First People, Gabriel says the purpose of having a Pow Wow is “To have a voice for the aboriginal students, also people period. We want people to understand us and not be afraid of us anymore”.
At the Pow Wow there were a dozen or more dancers on hand, with three drums and two Inuit throat singers, all of whom put on an amazing show. A handful of Native and Inuit organizations were there to provide information and wares to those who wandered the covered stalls. The many spectator/students who ventured over to the tents before and after classes or simply off the street, were drawn no doubt by the sound of the drums and beautiful primal singing. All looked very pleased with what met the eyes, some even seemed completely entranced.
Gabriel rates this year’s Pow Wow as much more successful than last year and looks forward to the future. She says there is still a lot of cultural sensitivity needed at McGill, but that patience is key, it’s all about the “baby steps”. She encourages any native students at McGill to present themselves to the First Peoples’ House, located at 3505 Peel Street, Tel.: 514-398-3217.