Smiths Falls’ Spirit of the Drum Powwow cancelled due to funding shortage

Spirit of the Drum Powwow 2022
Smiths Falls Spirit of the Drum Powwow in 2022. Photo credit: Kathy Botham.
Posted on: May 28, 2024

It takes about $50,000 to host the Smiths Falls Spirit of the Drum Powwow and this year, funding came up $15,000 short. 

Julia Crowder, the town’s economic development manager, told this publication Monday morning, May 27 that she was hoping the funding would come through, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. 

“We are extremely disappointed we weren’t able to proceed with the powwow this year but fully expect to bring it back in 2025,” she said. “The planning committee and other (partners) are meeting to discuss the future of powwow and how to ensure it can be sustainable for years to come.” 

Held here since 2017, the Spirit of the Drum Powwow has been a community partnership between the town and the Indigenous Studies Program at Smiths Falls Collegiate Institute. Hosted over two days, it’s been an interactive and educational celebration. 

SFDCI’s objective was educating and sharing First Nations culture with youth and the community. Students worked throughout the year to develop art installations and historical exhibits, showcased on Duck Island, which identified issues central to the history of First Nations in Canada and the importance of Reconciliation but also ReconciliACTION. This term was coined by Gord Downie of the Downie Wenjack Foundation, and is meant to inspire people to not just talk about what needs to change, but to actually do something to change it. Spirit of the Drum powwow is meant to represent this call to action.

Smiths Falls Spirit of the Drum Powwow
Photo credit: Kathy Botham.

Each year the powwow grows and we continue to host thousands of people over the two-day event, Crowder stated.

The Spirit of the Drum Traditional Powwow continues to be an extension of SFDCI’s Indigenous studies program and Real-World Learning opportunities for students, which partners with Indigenous Cultural Advisors and Knowledge Keepers who come into Indigenous Studies English and Art classes to provide real-world learning opportunities for students. The powwow is meant to showcase the culmination of the learning that has taken place over the school year.  

The Smiths Falls community has embraced Indigenous heritage and the stories of the First Nations people found throughout the Lanark Leeds Grenville and Frontenac region and Smiths Falls resides on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe Nation.

“A powwow is an important event for First Nations peoples,” Crowder stated. “It’s a chance for them to remember and celebrate their traditions through drumming and dancing and ceremony. For powwow visitors, it’s a vibrant, colorful and exciting opportunity to experience traditional Indigenous culture, and get a better understanding of the issues they face.”

Crowder said the powwow planning partners had to make the hard call to cancel this year’s event due to lack of funding needed to pay for the full cost executing the event this year.  

Annual core funding is provided by the Upper Canada District School Board and the Town of Smiths Falls.  The UCDSB provides a contribution of $10,000. The town this year increased its contribution to $20,000.

“Parks Canada has also been an ongoing partner providing both monetary and in-kind support since the event started in 2017 and this year, we received a contribution of $5,000. Another smaller grant was also awarded to the school from Desjardins to cover the cost of the Grand Feast. 

This left a short fall over approximately $15,000,” she said. 

The planning partners applied for two additional grants to cover the cost of the remaining funds needed to host the event, being Celebrate Ontario (provincial) and the Canadian Heritage Trust Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Program (federal).  

“On April 30 we were advised that our Celebrate grant was unsuccessful (we were also unsuccessful last year). And we still have not heard back on the other grant.  Over the last three years we have seen past grant opportunities for special events become less available and therefore more competitive, favouring larger events that draw huge crowds, which leaves small communities and events at a disadvantage.”

The planning partners waited until the last possible second to make the call and advised participants and partners, in the hope grant funding would come through, Crowder noted. 

According to April Scott-Clark, communications manager at the UCDSB, she said the board, through its Indigenous Education funding, has supported the Spirit of the Drum Powwow since it began with a consistent amount of $10,000 every year. 

“We have again allocated $10,000 to the 2024 event,” she said. “We also provide the same amount of funding each year to the Akwesasne Powwow. These powwows are excellent opportunities for Indigenous students to connect with their culture, learn more about their heritage and educate the community at the same time.” 

Scott-Clark said the Board confirmed its commitment of the annual $10,000 to the Powwow organizers in the fall. 

“It is our understanding that organizers were unsuccessful with grant applications this year, which has left them short of funding. We have offered to connect town organizers with members of the Akwesasne Powwow committee to learn about the funding strategies they have used to create a sustainable event.”

Hometown News
Author: Hometown News