Facing backlash over what many felt were outdated competition rules, the Kamloopa Powwow Society (KPS) in Kamloops, B.C., says it removed discriminatory language regarding gender and updated the rules to welcome all self-identified Indigenous people.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the Kamloopa Powwow Society said it’s adding a Switch Dance Special and a Two-Spirit Round Dance to the events running from July 29 to July 31.
The KPS said it’s also in the process of appointing a youth and a Two-Spirit member to its organizing committee.
‘On behalf of the Kamloopa Powwow Society (KPS), we apologize with a commitment to those who have been hurt or harmed by the posting of our outdated competition rules on Facebook on June 12, 2022,” the post from KPS president Delyla Daniels said. “We are grateful to those who reached out through social media and private messages to call for change and to provide constructive feedback and recommendations.”
Since the Facebook post, the KPS committee and team has worked together with local and national partners, including Indigenous LGBTQ+2S organizations, groups and individuals, to take steps for change.
“We have removed outdated and discriminatory language regarding gender and updated the rules to welcome all self-identified Indigenous people,” said Daniels. “To support our collective healing, we are adding a Switch Dance Special on Friday evening and a 2Spirit Round Dance on Saturday that we humbly commit to including annually.
“While our rules have now been revised, these are just the first steps as we work together with our community and other powwow societies across Turtle Island to dismantle traditions that no longer serve us and construct new ones that support healing, instill belonging, and honour the unique contributions each of us makes to the whole.”
After the original powwow rules were posted to Facebook on July 12, participants, vendors, and even volunteers began pulling out in protest and many regular attendees planned to boycott the event.
Social media posts included ones mocking the rules.
”Kamloops powwow rules- If you wear geometric beadwork, you must be a plains NDN or you will be disqualified,” one post said.
“If your kid has bepsi teeth, he or she will not get tiny tot money,” said another.
It's good to see the outrage, but Kamloopa powwow wrote down unspoken rules that many powwow committees and emcees across North America have enforced for years around gender
— Jessie Loyer (@JMLoyer) July 13, 2022
Other comments were more serious, with one commenter skewering the rules for not being inclusive:
“The rules of KAMLOOPA powwow are ridiculous!! What happened to “EVERY CHILD MATTERS”… my two spirted child matters! Your powwow used to be a favourite of mine to travel to, I won’t take my child where she is shamed by a toxic powwow committee that approved rules that exclude her! DISGUSTING KAMLOOPA!!” said the post.
Last week, the committee said the outdated rules had been included due to specific incidents during previous powwows.
“An elder got up to speak about the women’s jingle dress and how the gender needed to be a corrected, it needed to be the woman, and then the rules were changed from there,” Daniels said. “With respects to being a quarter First Nations, at the time there was a young man who came over from Germany and he danced and he placed at our powwow which upset some people.”
The Kamloopa Powwow is a mainstay on the powwow circuit, running for the 41st year and is just returning after a hiatus due to the pandemic.