Similkameen Powwow of Champions

Another stunning Okanagan weekend, another stunning Powwow celebration.  The Similkameen Powwow of Champions was held on Labor Day weekend at the Ashnola Campground just outside of Keremeos.  One of the largest Powwows in BC, the Powwow of Champions is an amazing display of culture, music and dance.  Set against a backdrop of mountain and forest, and boasting a permanent arena with covered bleachers, a person couldn’t ask for a more perfect setting.

We drove down on Saturday morning, had lunch in town, and made it to the grounds in good time for the afternoon Grand Entry.  We could have skipped lunch in town – there were plenty of dining options available right on the grounds, from mini donuts to bannock and teepee tacos to dried salmon.  

I’m used to sitting on a blanket on the ground, but I have to say I was grateful for the shaded bleachers that offered protection from the sun and heat.  Just looking at the dancers in full regalia made me uncomfortably hot.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to wear those outfits, never mind dance in them!  

Here are some of the photos from the Saturday afternoon event.

My friend Tania taking part in the Intertribal dance.


Powwow Between the Lakes

High in the hills above Penticton, overlooking both Skaha and Okanagan Lakes, is the Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School, and the site of the fourth annual Pow Wow Between the Lakes.

I’ve been looking forward to this all year.

A memory from my childhood:  my family was in Banff, Alberta. There was a cavalcade of First Nations people through the centre of town.  For a child my age – four or five years old – standing on the street holding my daddy’s hand, the sight of these stone-faced people on horseback in full regalia was more than a little bit frightening.  But then one of the riders looked down at me and smiled. That changed everything.

Later that night, there was a gathering in a field under the stars, with bonfires, drumming and dancing. There, against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, my love of the Pow Wow was born.

It wasn’t until last summer – my first, living here in the Okanagan – that I began to attend Pow Wows whenever I could.

Sunday was the final day of this year’s celebration.  It was hot, upwards of about 31 degrees, and while there were canopies surrounding the arena, I had only a blanket to spread on the ground.

I’ve come to know Pow Wows a little better than I did when I was a child.  It seems that every one I attend teaches me something new.  A Pow Wow is about culture and creativity.  It’s about family and friends, pride and excellence, history and tradition.  It’s also about creating a sacred space, a safe place, where one can ask for, and receive, the help and support of the community.

I took hundreds of photos during my four hours under the blazing sun.  I’m not posting all of them.  I’m not even posting the best of them.  I’ve chosen a selection of photos that I feel best showcases the feeling of a Pow Wow.  I hope you enjoy.


The Arena, from my spot in the sun.


One of the Flagbearers, preparing for the Grand Entry.


Sharing a moment.


You’re never too young to dance!



A new generation is brought in.


Families, sharing in the tradition.


Pow Wow – Not just for people


This dancer was the only competitor in his category – Young Men’s Fancy Bustle.  It would have been an easy thing to just go through the motions, especially in that heat, but he didn’t.  He performed his dance with everything he had, spinning and whirling and landing his final move on the exact last stroke of the drum. I’ve never been more impressed with a performance.



Some images from the highly competitive category Men’s Grass Dance.


Lasting Impressions


Turtle Island Special Edition

Yesterday was National Indigenous Peoples Day, and I celebrated by going to the Turtle Island Festival at the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Centre in downtown Kelowna.    I try to refrain from writing about what I do when I’m not out driving the backroads, but I’m making an exception in this case.

I do love a Powwow.

I love seeing arts and crafts on display, I love the regalia, the singing, the rhythm of the drums – but most of all, I love Powwow dancing.  Here are a few images from this year’s celebration.










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