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Many attend National Indigenous Peoples Day celebration in Cloverdale

David Stewart showcased his dancing talents during event at Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre

The Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre was busy on the Cloverdale Fairgrounds June 21 as many came out to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day.

In a message posted online ahead of Surrey’s celebration, Harley Chappell, the elected chief of the Semiahmoo First Nation, said the event would be “a great opportunity to showcase and celebrate the diverse Indigenous cultures of these lands, as well as all others who have made this beautiful part of British Columbia their home.”

The event kicked off at 3 p.m. with a demonstration on the history of skateboarding. The skaters used boards from the ’50s and performed tricks from the same era. 

One Nation Powwow Group (ONPG) followed the skate demo. Dancers performed numerous traditional powwow dance styles while on stage.

A welcome ceremony followed that with Semiahmoo, Katzie, and Kwantlen First Nations, Métis Nation B.C., the City of Surrey, and the Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association.

Later, Stars of the North Drum Group, Notorious Cree, PIQSIQ (Inuit-style throat singers), and others performed on stage before the closing ceremony at about 7:45 p.m.

David Stewart, a head dancer with ONPG, performed "men's traditional" dance. Stewart, a relative newcomer to powwow, was a crowd favourite, as many cheered loudly when he was front and centre on stage.

“I just started dancing about five months ago,” said Stewart. “I started because of my daughter.”

Stewart said he put his young daughter, Nickolina, in powwow, but she refused to go on stage and dance at the Langley Events Centre last year. She told him she wouldn't dance unless he went with her.

“So I joined and it helped her confidence go up.”

But the support went both ways; he gave his daughter confidence and she gave him confidence.

He now dances for her and for those who don’t dance—and those who can’t—along with those who are no longer here.

“I dance for my ancestors as well,” he said.

He added that seeing his daughter dancing is very emotional for him and it has deep meaning. He finds a thread that ties her to him and both to their ancestors.

He hopes that his dancing inspires others the way his daughter inspires him.

“For me, to inspire other Indigenous kids, who may not be brave enough to step out of their comfort zones yet, means the world to me,” he explained. “This is me showing everyone that you can bust through any wall that is holding you back.”

Stewart said along with men’s traditional, there are a lot of different categories: both men’s and women’s traditional, both men’s and women’s fancy, men’s grass, men’s chicken, women’s jingle, and hoop dancing.

“Men’s fancy dance is really tough to do,” he said. “The women’s fancy dance is more modern and fast. Quick, you gotta be super-quick to be a fancy dancer.”

He said grass dancers open powwows. 

“They start out first and get the dance area ready for us,” he said. “Smooth it out.”

Stewart said anyone who is interested in powwow dancing needs to know that with so many various dances, there is a spot for everyone.

“No matter what type of talent level someone has, they will fit in,” he noted. “There are so many different dance styles to choose from.”

He said anyone thinking about joining won’t be disappointed either.

“Come on out. Find where you fit, “ he added. “You will find a dance that you are comfortable with.

“Just go out and dance for everyone you love. And go out and dance for you ancestors as well.”

For more info on joining powwow dance classes, contact the Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association via

Malin Jordan

About the Author: Malin Jordan

Malin is the editor of the Cloverdale Reporter.
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