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Powwow honouring UCN graduates returns to Wapanohk arbour

Leslie W. Turner powwow was cancelled for the past two years after it made its debut in Wapanohk Community School’s powwow arbour in 2019.

Wapanohk Community’s School’s powwow arbour was completed more than three years ago but June 18 marked just the second Leslie W. Turner powwow to be held there, due to the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling the event for the previous two years.

The event, which honours University College of the North graduates and other students and children, took place under a mix of sun and cloud with a large crowd on hand to watch the grand entry, listen to dignitaries, enjoy the sunshine and, of course, to dance.

Elder Nick Halcrow of Pimicikamak Cree Nation led the grand entry after earlier demonstrating that he could still jig.

“This is a very special day that we’re having today,” he said. “Have you seen a better celebration than this?”

Martha Jonasson of the UCN elders’ council said a powwow was the most appropriate way to honour graduates of an institution that serves a region where about three-quarters of people are of Indigenous descent. She also congratulated those who are graduating at a ceremony June 30 for setting a goal and sticking to it, like a runner finishing a race.

“If you don’t lose sight of that finish line, you get there,” she said. “I’m really proud of all of our young people that are graduating.”

One of those who helped organize the event, Karl Laubmann, said that much like in 2019,  the powwow was on a beautiful day and that he was thankful for its return

“It’s been a challenging year,” he said. “It’s been challenging for a lot of people who’ve been through  a lot and I’m so happy that we’re still here. It’s beautiful to see everybody here today. It’s good to see people that maybe we haven’t seen in a while.”

Speaking on behalf of the City of Thompson, Mayor Colleen Smook said it was a pleasure to be back in the arbour and to see people graduating from college who she remembers as students at Wapanohk during her eight years helping out with the school’s breakfast program.

“It’s just an honour to be here and thank you to all the elders, thank you to all the children,” she said.