Roughly 2,500 people attended the 33rd annual Ben Calf Robe School Powwow held May 10 at the Commonwealth Recreation Centre in Edmonton.

WCR PHOTO | GLEN ARGAN

Roughly 2,500 people attended the 33rd annual Ben Calf Robe School Powwow held May 10 at the Commonwealth Recreation Centre in Edmonton.

Farian Bull, 16, of Maskwacis (Hobbema) dances.

WCR PHOTO | GLEN ARGAN

Farian Bull, 16, of Maskwacis (Hobbema) dances.

May 26, 2014
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The Ben Calf Robe Society Powwow was one awesome event.

Taking over the indoor football field in the Commonwealth Recreation Centre May 10, aboriginal dancers, drummers, and family and friends from across the West held what one organizer billed as "the biggest one-day traditional powwow that you will ever see."

"You see the glory and the colour of life," said Gary Gagnon, cultural facilitator at Ben Calf Robe School, the kindergarten to Grade 9 program of Edmonton Catholic Schools. "We are celebrating God's creation. We celebrate life and God always wanted to celebrate life."

With 600 to 700 dancers, 21 drum groups and roughly 2,500 people in total, the event spilled out of the recreation centre into the surrounding area.

Kori-Leigh Arcand of Alexander and Randi Candline of Bigstone converse during their dance.

WCR PHOTO | GLEN ARGAN

Kori-Leigh Arcand of Alexander and Randi Candline of Bigstone converse during their dance.

What makes Ben Calf Robe's powwow traditional? There are no competitions and no prizes; people dance simply to give glory to the Creator, said Gagnon. Even the drum groups come purely because they love to sing.

"Look at our people. We're strong; we dance with pride," he said. "They come to dance for one day to celebrate God, to celebrate the Creator."

Roughly 50 of the dancers are students at Ben Calf Robe. It's the 33rd year the school has put on the event to bring together the aboriginal community of Edmonton.

The 12-man Northern Cree from Saddle Lake was one of 21 drum groups at the powwow.

WCR PHOTO | GLEN ARGAN

The 12-man Northern Cree from Saddle Lake was one of 21 drum groups at the powwow.

Still attending the event is Leith Campbell, the long-time supervisor of native education for the school district who retired 15 years ago.

The powwow is the school's gift to the city's aboriginal community, Campbell said. There are few places in Edmonton where aboriginal people can gather, and the city provides the venue so the event can happen.