THUNDER BAY, ON ----- December 7, 2011 --- The life and legacy of a respected First Nations elder is about to be commemorated in a fitting fashion. A powwow honouring the late will be held at Ogden School this Friday, December 9 as a tribute to his role in sharing traditional teachings and the rich First Nations culture with Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals alike for decades. The powwow is part of the cultural teachings component of BIWAASE’AA, the in-school, after-school and nutritional program of Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon.
Lyons, who died in 2005 at the age of 80, moved to Thunder Bay in 1957 where he eventually joined the Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre as its cultural coordinator. In 1969, he formed the Lyons Dance Troupe which went on to tour Canada, the United States and parts of Europe. The troupe performed for Queen Elizabeth during the first Mount McKay powwow.
BIWAASE’AA youth outreach worker Nathaniel Moses, who works with children at Our Lady of Charity School, grew up with guidance from Lyons.
“Richard Lyons was an asset for our community and for the people who were interested in learning about our culture”, he said.
Moses added that Lyons persuaded him to become a part of his dance troupe as a young man. Because of his experiences, he is able to pass along the pride that he was made to feel in who he was as a First Nations person to the youth that he now works with.
“When I once told him that I wanted to be just like him, he told me that I would become even better than him. I will always hold his lessons in my heart”, he said.
Ogden School youth outreach worker and powwow organizer Art Sinclair is a relative of Lyons who was also mentored by him.
“He was there for me when I began to dance and he was always there for me and my siblings”, he said.
“He was the most encouraging and kind man who was completely accepting if you wanted to take part in the activities and even if you didn’t. There was never any judgment”, he added.
The powwow will get underway at noon with a feast for the dancers, singers and guests. At 1 p.m. the Grand Entry will take place, marking the start of the powwow. The host drum will be the Thunder Mountain Singers and the Elder will be Marge Lyons, the widow of Richard Lyons.
Initiated in 2004, BIWEAASE’AA is a holistic program which helps to address child poverty issues by increasing the life skills of children, youth and their families through strategies of cultural awareness, academic improvement, structured activities and healthy nutritional supplementation. It is currently offered in seven Thunder Bay schools.