In anticipation for this summer’s powwow season, the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto’s powwow regalia-making workshops have started.
“All the participants that come here make their own outfits for powwows or for their kids,” said instructor Deanne Hupfield, an Ojibway and former fashion student, who has taught the workshops since 2008.
In the workshops, students learn how to bead, sew, and design regalia, the formal wear used for powwows.
“Regalia is about expressing your nation, living in a good way, and trying to heal from the past,” said Hupfield.
Michelle Bartlett, a Métis, attends the workshop to learn how to make regalia for her four-year-old daughter who takes powwow dance classes at the centre on Saturdays.
“Doing this, and attending powwow class, is just our way of keeping her connected to her culture and knowing who she is,” said Bartlett. “For some people, it is a lot more spiritual. For my daughter, it is fun. She gets to see all of her family and reconnect to her community and her land. Every part of the outfit has some symbolism and representation of how they are connected to their culture.”
Deanne’s husband, John Hupfield, an Ojibway, has been making his own regalia and dancing for three years. While he beads, John listens to powwow music, getting himself mentally prepared for this summer’s pow-wow season.
“It shows our strength because there is a lot of negativity towards aboriginal people in Canada, and powwow is a positive expression,” said John. “It shows our inner strength and our ability to adapt contemporary culture with our traditions, even just with the materials that we use.”
While Humber College doesn’t have workshops like the centre, the school’s connection to indigenous cultural expression is strong through personal participation.
“Everyday I dress just like everyone else,” said Aboriginal Student Circle president Allysha Wassegijig, 20. “When I go to a powwow and put on my regalia, I feel that connection to my culture and my family.”
The centre, which also hosts language and beading classes for youth and adults, holds the workshops weekly on Wednesday nights at 6.