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by Cassandra Opikokew
 
Despite threats of gang violence, the Treaty 4 powwow took place on the weekend of Sept. 21. It was hosted by the Star Blanket Cree Nation and both organizers and attendees are calling it a success.

The powwow is a celebration that commemorates the signing of Treaty 4 between the region’s First Nation communities and the federal government over a century ago. It typically attracts about 4,000 visitors each year.

“We wanted to do it for those people who participate in the Treaty 4 powwow year after year,” said Francis Star, a councilor for the Star Blanket Cree Nation who helped organize the powwow.

Star says the powwow was initially cancelled because of concerns over public safety after six men escaped from the Regina jail in August.

“One of the jail escapees, Daniel Wolfe, was supposedly involved in the Fort Qu’Appelle shootings so we had concerns from the victims’ family members there."

Wolfe, who is alleged to have ties to a gang, was one of the jail escapees. He was found and arrested in Winnipeg on Sept.17.

After receiving pressure from community members and elders, the committee decided to go ahead with the powwow.

"I never thought it should have been cancelled. I think canceling it was a mistake but they learned from it and the powwow was really good,” said Glen Anaquod, an elder from the Muscowpetung First Nation.

After hurriedly raising additional funds, the committee was also able to extend the powwow to a two-day event over the weekend instead of the initially planned one-day event.

"We've had lots of community support. At our fundraising bingo, we had elders cleaning out their own wallets just to keep it going," said Star. "We didn't want to let gang violence deter from our culture and traditions."

Aaron Star is a member of the Star Blanket First Nation and has been attending the Treaty 4 powwow for over twenty years. He said that he did not hear of any fighting or violence

"The security made their presence known and everything seemed to go pretty peacefully."

Tammy Obey also attended the two-day event and was chaperoning a group of male youth who were singing at the powwow.

"I personally never felt unsafe or threatened at any point. It was all very positive and healing, especially how the communities came together."

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