Aboriginal languages in Canada are endangered.
In the 2011 National Household Survey just more than 17 per cent of those with an Aboriginal identity were able to speak an Aboriginal language fluently. This is down from 21 per cent in 2006.
Chris McGregor smiles warmly at curious attendees viewing her jewelry, some of it hand crafted, as the Humber community celebrated an All Nations Powwow on Nov. 10, an annual event in its fifth year. She is part of that 17 per cent, a fluent speaker of Ojibwe.
“It’s up to you if you want to learn some of the language,” said McGregor, believing it is the responsibility of Aboriginal youths to keep their languages alive.
McGregor now lives in South Etobicoke, but is originally from Manatoulin Island. She was a banker for 35 years before becoming an entrepreneur. She also teaches people how to make moccasins.
“We travel throughout Ontario on the powwow trail,” said McGregor.
The public event was hosted and organized by the Aboriginal Resource Centre. Grace Esquega, is an events co-coordinator at the Aboriginal Resource Centre, helped to organize the event.
“We set up the day before, chairs and tables.” They also decorated the auditorium in the Humber College North Campus cafeteria before the celebration started at noon, said Esquega
Emcee Daniel Delacry welcomed everyone to the event and helped to explain the historical significance of the music, dancing, and powwows.
“We give thanks for life,” Delacry said as he introduced the Grass Dancers for the Grand Entry as the Eagle Heart singers chanted and played drum beats that felt like a heart echoing in the auditorium.
“A powwow is a contemporary version of song and dance. The powwow originated in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show,” Delacry explained.
He thanked President Chris Whittaker for being present at the event and making a speech, noting not every school president makes that kind of effort.
Delacry also pointed out that Humber College has one of the largest Aboriginal populations among post-secondary schools.
A variety of vendors set up at the powwow, too.
One of the vendors, Patrick Hunter, is an artist who works on canvas in acrylic paint and digital.
“I’m from Red Lake Ontario. I’m inspired by the land and culture, it’s very boreal,” Hunter said of his artistic inspiration. His work is also influenced by Ojibway traditions.
Brooke Kakepetum, another vendor, had a table of arts, crafts, and general supplies. She said many of the items including porcupine quills, a rabbit pelt, and clothes pin dolls can be found throughout northern Ontario Aboriginal communities.
Humber’s All Nations Powwowhappens each November and all are welcome to join in.