For one weekend, the Art Hauser Center is transformed as the thundering of drums fill the arena.
The transformation has earned the Northern Lights Casino’s competition powwow the award for the best cultural event in Prince Albert for 2017.
Hundreds of powwow dancers and singers from across North America descend on the gateway to the North, each of them honouring the many Indigenous cultures of the continent.
“We’re coming up on close to 22 years of organizing the powwow,” Richard Ahenakew from the Northern Lights Casino said. “We’ve been in business for 21 years and the powwow started the second year we were open.”
One of the biggest attractions to the event is the spotlight special which sees fancy bustle dancers compete in a tournament style dance-off. The final 12 dancers square off under spotlights until the final two dancers square off in a head-to-head battle for $10,000 in prize money.
The spotlight special is always a crowd favourite according to Ahenakew, as judges take into consideration how much noise each dancer draws.
“The spotlight special brings some of the best fancy dancers from across North America to show what they’ve got and show off why they’re some of the best in the world,” Ahenakew said. “It’s just amazing how packed the stands get during that one special.
As the powwow is a competition powwow, which features dancers and drum groups competing for money, roughly $60,000 in prize money is handed out at each gathering to attract the best dancers in the world in every category.
Dancing aside, the lobby of the Art Hauser Center features beadwork, crafts, and clothing by vendors from around Saskatchewan.
“There’s a lot of craft makers out there, people who have beadwork, photographers, people selling knick-knack’s here and there, other people that are developing other traditional crafts… the arena there is the place to sell them,” Ahenakew said.
Between 35 and 50 people are involved in planning the event each year it takes place. Ahenakew said there are a variety of individuals who hold the powwow near and dear to their hearts who volunteer many hours each year to make the powwow a reality.
The powwow is now moving to become a biannual event according to Ahenakew. He said all of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority powwows are moving in this direction. The next gathering is tentatively scheduled for the Thanksgiving long weekend in October of 2018.
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