Return to drumbeat of Indigenous tradition at U of M


Advertise with us

The steady beat of drums, soaring vocals and colourful regalia of a traditional Indigenous ceremony will return to the University of Manitoba grounds.

Read this article for free:


Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe:

Monthly Digital Subscription

$4.75 per week*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles

*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/04/2022 (398 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The steady beat of drums, soaring vocals and colourful regalia of a traditional Indigenous ceremony will return to the University of Manitoba grounds.

The annual graduation powwow will take place in person on May 7 at the Investors Group Athletic Centre for the first time since 2019.

“Be prepared to see the colours and magic of Indigenous people socializing and celebrating with each other,” said Brokenhead First Nation elder Carl Stone.

Stone, who counsels Indigenous students at the University of Manitoba, has been involved with the graduation powwow since it began in 1989. Back then, he was a student; now, he helps organize, advise and emcee the event.

As the date approaches, he feels equal parts excitement and pride.

“It’s not easy to get a degree,” Stone said. “The way the students handle their difficulties, how they get through them, speaks to the kind of individual they are going to be when they get out into the community… my heart swells for them.”

The graduation powwow is a pillar of Manitoba’s Indigenous community, Stone said. Not only does it honour the graduates, but it typically kicks off the outdoor powwow season from May to September.

Among those planning to celebrate at the powwow is Justin Lambert, a graduate of the university’s inner-city social work program.

The 31-year-old Métis man has been attending powwows his entire life — even before he was born, his pregnant mother would attend ceremonies.

“She would go to powwows and feel me kicking with the drums,” he said. “It’s something that’s pretty powerful, and that just makes a lot of people feel comfortable and happy.”

The tradition is an opportunity to immerse oneself in culture and take pride in achievements, not just as an individual but as a community, Lambert said.

“Any time you get to celebrate with your family and friends, your accomplishment, those are big moments for us Indigenous graduates,” he said. “It’s important to not only celebrate yourself, but to celebrate those people who have helped you along the way.”

Organizers and students are looking ahead to what could be one of the larger ceremonies in the event’s 33-year history, said Carla Loewen, director of the university’s Indigenous Students Centre.

Seventy-five graduates have applied to participate and Loewen anticipates more graduates will RSVP. He expects that number to rise.

Between graduates, elders, dancers, and community members, Loewen estimates there could be more than 600 attendees.

Notably, the event has received unprecedented volunteer support this year, to the point the planning committee had to stop accepting volunteer applications, Stone said.

Many of the 82 volunteers are international students, he said.

The all-day graduation powwow starts with a traditional pipe ceremony at 9:30 a.m. The grand entry — a procession of Indigenous veterans, elders and graduates — will follow at 1 p.m.

“It’s a very colourful, calming, beautiful presentation because everybody has their regalia on, and the drummers are drumming,” Loewen said, describing the entry.

The remainder of the day will consist of honouring grads, feasting, drumming, and dancing.

The event will close with a prayer at 7 p.m.

Red River College Polytechnic will also host a graduation powwow on May 6

The University of Winnipeg has not announced whether it will host its annual spring powwow.

Report Error Submit a Tip


Advertise With Us