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2014-06-29 at 6:00 PM

Keeping culture alive

By Matt Vis,
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THUNDER BAY -- Bear Charles knows events like powwows are fundamental to maintain the vibrancy of his culture.

The culture coordinator with Fort William First Nation knows it is up to the younger members of the community to keep their heritage alive.

“We’ve put a celebration together to honour our young leaders who have stepped forward in a good way to foster our culture and light that spark in the community,” he said on Sunday, the final day of Fort William First Nation’s annual powwow, which was held at the Mount McKay Scenic Lookout.

“From a personal perspective people are always wondering who they are, what they’re all about and where they’ve come from.”

Aspects of culture like language, family history and traditions give people the foundations to grow, Bear added.

David Charlie, 13, knows it is vital to preserve the traditions and customs so they can be shared with future generations.

That’s part of the reason he participates in events like the powwow.

“It’s important because our culture is dying. Powwows and other traditions go back centuries so we have to bring it back. The youth in our community should be growing up in the customs so we can teach our kids when we get older,” he said.

Organizers estimate that more than 2,000 people attended the festivities over the course of the weekend, including delegations from outside the immediate area. There was a multitude of vendors selling everything from food to crafts.

Having visiting groups come from farther north in Ontario, as well as Manitoba and the United States highlights the significance for David.

When the younger people get engaged, it has a special effect for Bear.

It’s become quite easy for him to tell when the culture resonates with them.

“We talk about a spark and you can see it in their eyes if you look at all the young people in the crowd, the young drum we have and that’s how we’re going to impact future generations,” he said.

The event kicked off on Sunday with the grand entry parade and concluded with a ceremonial feast, complete with traditional fare.

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