Canada’s Minister of Indigenous Services Seamus O’Regan was the special guest at the Between the Lakes Pow Wow Saturday at Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School.
“I’m here just to celebrate with the community, I mean the powwow is fantastic and it’s always an honour to participate,” said O’Regan, the MP for St. John’s South – Mount Pearl who took over the portfolio last January. “You get the glow of pride, real pride and the identity of the people. It’s awesome just to take in.
“That’s what it’s all about It’s great to see all the kids participating and it’s great to see. I was just talking to the little girl there, Summer, she said that she even has a room in her house where she practices her powwow dances.”
O’Regan’s stop in Penticton was part of his nearly week-long visit to B.C. during which time he had an opportunity to meet with a number of First Nations representatives, including Chief Chad Eneas of the Penticton Indian Band.
“The past five days I’ve spent in British Columbia there has been a lot of talk about language and culture,” said O’Regan. “We have a lot of work to do obviously in many other respects, schooling, health care, housing, but it’s really important to come back to what it’s all about and it’s about the celebration of very unique culture of the people and their languages.”
He pointed to the government’s new education policy as a way of improving schooling for First Nations students.
“We’re finally funding Indigenous kids at the same level as non-indigenous kids in British Columbia which we weren’t before plus we’re topping up for each student $1,500 for extra programming in language and culture and full-day kindergarten,” said O’Regan. “We’re starting to get it right and I’m so pleased we’re making that extra money available for language and culture because it is so important.”
He noted going to events like the powwow in Penticton has an impact on government decisions down the road.
“I come from a small town in Labrador and I’m a big believer in the government going to the people, listening to the people talking to people where they live, but you know that’s on a political level, but on a human level, take this in, it’s great,” said O’Regan looking out at the dancers of all ages on the field.
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