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The FKRM’s Pow Wow club is for everyone

Learn Indigenous Pow Wow dance styles while also getting an incredible work-out

March 7, 2022 — 

The University of Manitoba’s Pow Wow club is a fun, challenging and culturally stimulating group that is hoping to increase its participant base in the coming months.

The group was initiated by UM alum Carl Stone, an Indigenous cultural leader, who wanted to see a Pow Wow club at the University of Manitoba, like others that already existed across the city and at the University of Winnipeg. Alongside Heather McCrae and Ray (CoCo) Stevenson, who was asked to facilitate, to club was launched about half a decade ago. It has been up and running since then, owing to the hard work of Stevenson and the other dance instructors who devote their time to teaching Pow Wow dance.

Heather McCrae, director for Indigenous engagement at UM, notes that for now, the Pow Wow club is run through the Indigenous engagement unit, which means that it can’t be found on the Rec Services website. Overall, Stevenson says the club has been relatively underutilized at the university, and he hopes that with more awareness about the group, more students and community members will consider getting involved. 

Why learn Pow Wow dance?

Though many are interested in learning Pow Wow dance, it can be difficult to take that first step and attend a session.

Stevenson says, “a lot of people want to do it,” but that at the moment “(most) people really aren’t taking advantage of it.”

He urges students and community members to make the effort and try attending a class. Learning Pow Wow dance— particularly for both Indigenous youth— can be an invaluable source of cultural learning, he emphasizes.

“Having that sense of pride as a young person, being able to dance one of the different styles . . . (and) when you see someone at a Pow Wow who you’ve taught, there’s nothing better, because you can sit back and say, ‘that’s my student, look at them go’,” Stevenson explains.

Instructor Wayne Ruby agrees that learning Pow Wow styles can be an incredible way to connect with one’s Indigenous heritage.

“I was into dancing ever since I was a kid,” he says, “I thought: music is part of my culture.”

The club isn’t only open to Indigenous participants, however, everyone is welcome to join and can benefit from the cultural learning and creativity that is fostered in the Pow Wow dance club.

Stevenson says the participant base is quite diverse. “We have a doctor, a professor, we have kids, we’ve had people that are from different races,” he says.

“I think people of all ages should get involved simply because they get a better understanding of who we are and what we are as First Nations people in the way of song and dance.”

There are also, of course, significant fitness benefits to learning Pow Wow dance, in particular the stamina it takes to dance multiple songs in a row. 

“When you see people dancing on a video, on YouTube, they make it look so easy and graceful, and that’s what you’re supposed to do,” Stevenson says. “When (in reality) it takes you literally years, or months, to be able to condition yourself to dance that long.”

If you are interested in connecting with your Indigenous heritage, aren’t Indigenous but want to learn more about Indigenous culture, or if you just want to get involved in a fun, active community, this may be the group for you.

The Pow Wow club is currently in its winter session and is meeting every Monday from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., until May 2.

Check them out on Facebook. For more details, please email: heather [dot] mccrae [at] umanitoba [dot] ca.



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