‘Open mind, open heart’: Thousands expected for 2023 South Island Powwow

'Open mind, open heart': Thousands expected for 2023 South Island Powwow

The South Island Powwow will envelop Royal Athletic Park in Victoria on Sept. 30, and this year organizers are expecting big crowds.

The event, in its second year, is hosted by the Songhees Nation in partnership with the City of Victoria. Last year, 10,000 people attended, “with more people expected to attend this year,” according to the city in a release Monday.

That’s because First Nations from across Vancouver Island and on the mainland are invited to the Powwow, which is happening on Truth and Reconciliation Day at the park on Caledonia Avenue, “the homelands of the lÉ™k̓ʷəŋən people,” they say.

Truth and Reconciliation Day, also known as Orange Shirt Day, was established as an observance in 2013, a federal statutory holiday in 2021 and a stat in B.C. in 2023.

Songhees Chief Ron Sam says the Powwow “has rekindled a piece of Songhees history” and provides a safe space for healing, education and understanding.

“It also celebrates Indigenous cultures and resiliency and brings people together in celebration to build bridges amongst all Nations,” said the city.

It says the Powwow also recognizes survivors of residential schools and their families, all the while honouring those who never made it home from these institutions.

“We invite the public to be present, with an open mind and open heart to witness the resiliency of Indigenous Peoples on this important day,” said Chief Sam in the release.

The city says the Powwow will feature the traditional grand entry of Nations, as well as Indigenous song and dance, guest speakers and more than 80 vendors, including food trucks.

Last year at Centennial Square in Victoria, prior to the Powwow, hundreds stood silently, some wiping tears, as residential school survivor Eddy Charlie spoke.

READ 2022 STORY: Canadians reflect about residential schools on Truth and Reconciliation Day

Charlie, from the Cowichan Valley, said he was five years old when he arrived at a residential school. Years away from family turned him and others into “perfect hate machines,” but the more he told his story of trauma, the easier it became to heal.

“That is my hope for victory on Orange Shirt Day,” he said.

The city says all are welcome to attend the Powwow, and admission is free. The gates will be opened at 10 a.m. with “two grand entries” at noon and 6 p.m.

“We welcome Songhees Nation’s invitation to the whole community to join the City in supporting the South Island Powwow as a meaningful step in our journeys of reconciliation,” added Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto.

More information is online.


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Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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