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Speaking Our Truth Competition Pow Wow a path toward healing for WLFN

Williams Lake First Nation has committed to supporting two pow wows a year
Williams Lake First Nation newly-elected councillor Dancing Water Sandy, left, and Chief Willie Sellars at the Kamloopa Powwow July 29-31. (Photo submitted)

Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) is ramping up to host its first annual Speaking Our Truth Competition Pow Wow Sept. 9 through 11 at the Chief William Arbor.

Historically the nation hosted a Cariboo Contest Pow Pow many, many years ago organized by the Terbasket family, said Chief Willie Sellars.

“This is a revitalization of the competition pow wow. Moving forward into the future we are really investing into this culture revitalization that is a big part of our healing we feel has to happen.”

Sellars said WLFN has committed to hosting two pow wows a year, with the second one being to support the elders traditional pow wow on Father’s Day weekend.

He just started dancing himself this year, something he wanted to do for a long, long time.

“I finally made the commitment. My first dancing was at Kamloopa and my second pow wow is going to be ours.”

When he danced he was overwhelmed by the amount of pride and support he received and how happy it made the elders from his community to see him on the dance floor.

“I keep thinking in my head, what if we had 15 or 20 of our kids out there. What if we had 30 of our band members throughout the categories, 40, 50 or 60, whatever. I do feel that what those dancers are doing on that dance floor is healing every single person that is in attendance and helping heal our community.”

By choosing to dance he wanted to lead by example and contribute toward the healing journey and seeing the happiness from the elders about that choice has inspired him, he said.

“I’ve been building my regalia for the past year. People like Lennard Supernault, Dancing Water Sandy, Amy Sandy, Jean William, Sharae Wycotte, these local dancers in our community inspired me to be a part of it.”

WLFN has invited people from all over Canada to attend and Sellars noted the amount of sponsorship for the pow wow has been overwhelming.

“We are really looking forward to bringing people together in a good way. We encourage Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike to come and be part of it.”

Competition pow wows are different than traditional pow wows in the sense there is an admission charge at a competition pow wow that goes toward payouts for dancers.

“You are getting more dancers from all over because they are coming there to win.”

Sellars is also excited to showcase the upgrades at the Chief William Arbor where they have completed more than $350,000 worth of renovations.

It is the first phase and the renovations completed this past year were for things the elders had been asking to have done for more than a decade.

“The elders are excited. This is like the first step. We want to continue to invest in our facilities,” he said. “Creating this additional pride for our membership to be proud of who they are and where they are from is also going to be a big part of our healing journey.”

Things will kick off Friday, Sept. 9 with a grand entry at 7 p.m. Some of the confirmed specials include an Honouring Our Victors - Orange Regalia Special, a senior princess, junior princess and little brave pageant, a princess pageant talent show on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 11 a.m. and stick games both evenings.

There will also be grand entries on Saturday, Sept. 10 at noon and 7 p.m. and on Sunday, Sept. 11 at noon.

Anyone needing further information about camping, accommodations or the events is asked to contact Janet Smith at

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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