Traditional dancer David Johnson of the Esketemc First nation in Alkali Lake danced at the Canim Lake Traditional Powwow in July 2018. He had been dancing for a year-and-a-half. File photo.

Canim Lake Powwow will honor murdered and missing indigenous women and girls

‘It’s a lot of responsibility when you take on the princess role for any community’

The Canim Lake Band’s annual traditional Powwow will take place from July 12 to 14 in honour of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls.

Lenora Christopher is the social development clerk for the Canim Lake Band and has been involved with the band’s annual powwow since it began. She explained that the role of princess actually carries a lot of responsibility, as princesses are expected to be visual within the community and to show responsibility and respect to their peers and elders.

“The ones who take the responsibility to run for princess, they have to be visual and people have to see them up front and centre,” she said. “The princesses carry the crown for one year, unless, like when we had the fires, we couldn’t host the powwow so the princesses carried it [their titles] for two years.”

Each year, the powwow has a senior and junior princess, explained Christopher. The current reigning junior princess is Eva Mancia Archie, aged eight years old. Archie is from the Skowkale reserve and her great grandmother Mary Archie is from Canim Lake.

The reigning senior princess is Zanna Harry. Her mother Yvonne Harry is from Canim Lake, but Zanna comes from Agassiz. The Tsq’escen princesses will hand over their crowns this year to two new Canim Lake princesses. Tsq’escen is a Shushwap word for the people of Broken Rock, or Canim Lake band.

The junior princess category allows participants to compete as soon as they can walk. Juniors can enter the powwow’s princess competition until the age of 12, while the senior princess category includes young women from age 13 to 18.

Read more: Canim Lake powwow united First Nations communities in shame-free celebration

Christopher recalls that a girl as young as two years old even participated as a powwow princess one year.

“Usually the parents can help them and speak for them,” Christopher explained of some of the youngest princesses. “If we have nobody to enter for princess or princesses we usually ask the parents to step up and get the child to represent.”

Participation has been pretty low in the past few years, said Christopher, “But sometimes we see four to six [participants].”

During the pageant portion of the powwow, princess participants perform a talent and a speech.

“It can be anything, whatever their talent is,” said Christopher. “We’ve seen a lot of hand-drumming with a song, we’ve seen people do dances. I’ve seen some [play] musical instruments like the flute, the fiddle, or the drums.”

“The senior princess special is the outgoing princesses,” she added. “They’ll put on a special to bring in the dancers in their category,” Christopher explained that the outgoing princesses will also usually perform a blanket dance where they honour four people who have helped them throughout the year.

“The grand entry is bringing in the flags,” she said. “The B.C., Canada, and the First Nations flags.”

The powwow is held at the Canim Lake Arbour, and Buck Sheena will be this year’s MC. Everett White will serve as the powwow’s whip man and arena director. The event will be drug and alcohol-free, and vendors can reserve their spot at the weekend powwow for $75 or $55 per day. Camping will also be available, along with some billeting.

Friday’s events get started with the 7 p.m. grand entry before the retiring of flags at 11:30 p.m. The following morning, on Saturday, breakfast will be served until 10 a.m. before the grand entry and prayer gets started at 1 p.m. The grand entry will be followed by an official welcome from Chief and council before the Junior Princess Special gets started.

Supper is at 5 p.m. on Saturday and the second grand entry of the day gets started at 7 p.m. with this year’s outgoing princesses and band royalty on display. The year’s incoming princess contestants will also be featured Saturday.

Related: Canim Lake Band native discovers passion for pow wow regalia

On Sunday, breakfast is served once again until 10 .am. The Princess Pageant talent competition takes place at 11 a.m. before the final grand entry and Senior Princess Special takes place. At 2 p.m. the outgoing princesses will be present for the crowning of the new 2019 princesses.

“It’s a lot of responsibility when you take on the princess role for any community,” said Christopher. Some of those responsibilities include being visual to the powwow committee and the people, she explained. “Especially our elders and the children. To show responsibility and be visual, assisting in any way.”

Outgoing princesses represent their community all year at different events and powwows across Canada and the USA, said Christopher.

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