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TJ Warren braids his daughter’s hair for powwow. Randy Morin teaches Cree words. Ace Lafond builds teepees. Here are 3 Saskatoon fathers living Indigenous culture in meaningful ways.

Apart from the occasional honk of a Canada goose, it’s quiet at Wanuskewin Heritage Park this evening. The silence is broken by the rhythmic jingling of Omiyosiw Nazbah Warren’s powwow regalia. At only 11, she is a total professional in her art form.

Her six-year-old sister, Kiihibaa Acahkos Warren, has less experience but is full of enthusiasm. She excitedly points out colours on her tasselled fancy dance shawl. Her favourite colours are red and blue and gold … and purple. She spreads the garment wide in the light of the golden hour.

“My shawl goes up when I spin, look!” she says.

The girls are happy and confident in their regalia. That fills their father TJ Warren, a champion chicken dancer, with a sense of accomplishment. He and his wife Dabney, a jingle dress dancer from Big River First Nation, have raised them to be proud of who they are and where they come from. The family has shared its passion over countless kilometres at powwows across the continent.

Warren’s parenting style keeps the family’s Indigenous heritage at the forefront, from dance to language to prayer.

“I want my daughters to continue on the compassion that we have as First Nations people to not only ourselves but the world,” he said. “And to never sell ourselves short, understanding who we are and what we can achieve as First Nations people.”

Warren grew up in Red Mesa, Ariz. on the Navajo Nation, home of the Diné people.

He wears his hair in long braids. He only cut it short once.

At school, he was teased for wearing it long. At around age four, after a fight with one of his fellow students, he found a pair of scissors in the family car.

“We started to drive and my mom knew there was something wrong. She found the pair of scissors and opened the glove compartment and my two little braids were in there,” he said.

After that, his parents explained the significance of long, braided hair. He’s worn it that way ever since.

Powwow and traditional ceremonies were integral parts of his family life from the beginning. Warren went through an initiation into the dance circle at around eight years old. From then on, life felt like it began again for me. TJ Warren, on finding out he was going to be a dad His journey to Canada had dark beginnings. In 2005, Warren was driving a group, including his now-wife, home from a powwow at the Witchekan Lake First Nation.

They were in great spirits, having taken home several first-place finishes. Warren lost control on a curve and the car ended up overturned in a slough.

His 16-year-old cousin Roderick Slim died in the crash. Warren was devastated.

“I was afraid to go home. I felt responsible for the death of my cousin because I was driving,” he said.Warren returned to Arizona with his cousin’s body, but found it difficult to be home. He found comfort and support through Dabney and her family and decided to move to Saskatchewan. Soon, the couple found out they were expecting a child. That moment changed everything for him.“This pity and depression and not feeling loved or being valuable to anybody changed. I had something to look forward to,” he said. “From then on, life felt like it began again for me.” TJ Warren keeps a steady beat for his daughters Omiyosiw Nazbah Warren and Kiihibaa Acahkos Warren to dance to during sunset at Wanuskewin Heritage Park. (Michelle Berg/Saskatoon StarPhoenix) […]

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