In 2013, we set out with a simple ambition: To create an informal gathering designed by paraplanners for paraplanners to exchange views, learn things, fix things and share things.
Taking inspiration from the unique quality of teepees to create space for conversation and cooperation in-the-round, we settled on the idea of staging an unconference event held in rolling countryside under open skies – in teepees.
And because of the teepees’ association with Native American tradition, we named the event the Paraplanners Powwow. The language and imagery and props and furnishings we adopted drew on the depictions of the 19th century United States popularised in ‘Western’ films and TV.
Despite being intended as a one-off event, the organising principles adopted for that original event proved compelling.
So much so, in fact, that paraplanners who attended the very first Powwow decided to organise their own events: Powwow Up North was born, and then Powwow Down South, and then Powwow North of the Border, and so on and so on.
The Paraplanners Powwow name stuck and so we stuck with the whole Powwow theme.
But in recent weeks we’ve had plenty of reasons to think again about persisting with the ‘Powwow’ theme – not least because we received an email challenging us directly about our adoption and use of the powwow idea, naming and associated branding.
To be confronted with the idea that our events contribute to cultural appropriation of Native American tradition and, in doing so, perpetuate prejudice has been upsetting. And we know that participants in our events would feel exactly the same as us.
But as organisers, we should have recognised the harm that the adoption of the powwow would cause. We didn’t and we are sorry.
What we can do is make changes now.
We have already begun to take steps to remove the Powwow and Howwow names and end the use of imagery and props that contribute to cultural appropriation of Native American tradition.
That’s why, from now on, we’re the Paraplanners Assembly.
And although we’re changing our name, the idea that’s made our events and the community that’s flourished around them remains exactly the same: To create informal gatherings designed by paraplanners for paraplanners to exchange views, learn things, fix things and share things.
We’re learning from our mistakes. We’re fixing it. And – today – we’re sharing our news.
We’ll be publishing details of new events coming up and will see you at an Assembly soon.