By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – The Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations held an Aug. 17 powwow on the Enoch Cree Nation reserve to celebrate its 30th anniversary, with many dignitaries in attendance, including Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, Indigenous NDP MLAs Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse and Brooks Arcand-Paul, and UCP Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson.
Kayli Avveduti, executive director of the confederacy, said it was established in 1993 as a political organization to advance the common interests of its member nations.
“We share a lot of the same positions on important political issues, specifically around education, water, health, and we know that united we can force the government to sit up and listen to what we have to say,” Avveduti told reporters.
“We’re still here today organized after 30 years and we’re going to keep going strong.”
She cited last year’s Papal visit, which included a stop in Maskwacis, as one of the confederacy’s most significant accomplishments in recent years.
Former Grand Chief George Arcand played a “huge role in advocating and ensuring that Indigenous people were front and centre during that visit and during the Papal apology,” Avveduti added.
“I think it had a really positive impact on the way that [the visit] was received by our indigenous brothers and sisters,” she said.
It’s important for the confederacy to maintain strong relationships with each level of government, even if they don’t “always see eye to eye in terms of their policy decisions.”
“We work to find these shared political positions among our member nations and advance those at those tables, so we’re grateful that those representatives were here today,” said Avveduti.
On the municipal level, Mayor Sohi has written a letter of intent to work with the confederacy on addressing a lack of affordable housing for Indigenous people in the city. Edmonton has the second-largest urban Indigenous population in Canada after Winnipeg.
In July, Grand Chief Leonard Standingontheroad declared a national state of emergency due to the drug poisoning crisis, which has disproportionately impacted Indigenous people.
Avveduti said work is underway with all levels of government to address the problem.
“They say the right things and they’re committed to doing this, but we all know that actions speak louder than words, so we’ll wait to see what happens,” she said.
‘They say the right things and they’re committed to doing this, but we all know that actions speak louder than words, so we’ll wait to see what happens.”
Powwow dancers Larson and Juliann Yellowbird helped the confederacy organize the powwow after Avveduti reached out to them.
“We powwow all over Turtle Island,” Juliann said. “Our kids have danced since they could walk.”
Powwow is a way to bring community together for a social event, on one level, but it also has a deeper spiritual significance, Larson explained.
“Powwow is also healing, which is the majority of why we get together,” he said. “The people [who] lost loved ones, it helps them lift their spirits.”
Larson said someone gave him a tobacco offering for their father who was ill at a powwow last week.
“I held that when I danced, so I’m hoping my dancing helped him give that good energy for him to get better,” said Larson.
Juliann emphasized that anyone who attends a powwow is encouraged to dance.
“We say that as long as you have two feet and a heartbeat, you’re good to go,” she said. “Just feel that energy.”
The confederacy’s anniversary powwow was unique for how many chiefs were in attendance with their headdresses, not just from Treaty Six but beyond, which Larson described as a high honour.
Grand Chief Standingontheroad said he wanted to honour the confederacy’s past leadership, some of whom are “in the Spirit world,” and their “vision and dedication to this organization.”