Those in town over Thanksgiving can take themselves over to the Quesnel Youth Soccer building’s indoor field on Oct. 6-7 to witness men, women and children adorned with beads, feathers, bells and fantastic colours, dancing to a steady drum beat at the Quesnel Tillicum Society’s annual Memorial Powwow.
It’s the 45th event this year, and Quesnel Tillicum Society executive director Tony Goulet says they expect a great turnout, as they’ve had in previous years.
“It sees about 800 people coming through the doors,” says Goulet.
The event features a family dinner and dance on Friday, Oct. 5, and then a full day event Saturday, with dancing, drumming performances, a tiny tot pageant and a community dinner. Sunday will see attendees continue with dancing and drumming at 1 p.m., and there will also be a memorial honouring ceremony.
Members of the four local First Nation bands will be in attendance, and all members of the public are welcome to come out and join the celebration. The local powwow also attracts dancers from the Lower Mainland, as well as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
“We also have an emcee that always comes from the States,” says Goulet.
“The drummers and dancers come together and they tell a story. They have the traditional dances – you’ll see the girls do a dance, the men do a dance and the older and younger. They encourage local people to dance as well. It’s all about feeling the music.”
Goulet says the drumming and the regalia can be powerful.
“It’s a celebration; it’s to celebrate their culture and who they are. It’s a spiritual thing. Some of the dancers are very spiritual.”
The annual powwow used to be held at the Tillicum Society Native Friendship Centre on North Fraser Drive, but the event has grown in the last four years, says Goulet.
“It has grown as the community has started to want to know more about what is a pow wow and what does it do?”
It’s now held at the larger soccer facility.
The Quesnel Tillicum Society has been hosting the event for almost 50 years, and it has also been running many other programs from its West Quesnel location.
The centre is open to everybody, and locals can access drug and alcohol counselling, information on property law and family law, mental health resources for children and youth, as well as many cultural and employment programs.
Goulet says they recently ran well-received moccasin-making workshops, and have their monthly events including Bingo and many programs for parents and young children.
“Last year we added catering, so we can create some employment opportunities,” he says. The Tillicum Society runs Jean’s Side Door Catering.
Goulet says the Society ran a recent camp cook program that saw a group of locals gain employment right away.
“We had a chef come in and teach skills. An employer came in and was so impressed that he hired them to work in his camps, and they are working now.”
He says they hope to run a similar program again, if they can gain funding to do so.
“There’s a variety of services people can get when they come in. … The staff run their individual programs; we do the hospitality training with our employment councillor. The end goal is to help people find jobs and be self-sufficient,” says Goulet.
Find out more about the Tillicum Society’s events and programs, including this weekend’s powwow, at www.quesnel-friendship.org.