In July 2012, the Poundmaker Cree Nation hosted, what they hoped would become, the first of many successive Annual International Powwows, and was produced in commemoration of the 125th Anniversary of the Northwest Resistance.
Powwows are celebrations that showcase Aboriginal music, dances, dance apparel, food and crafts. Commonly hosted by First Nations communities (either on reserve or in urban settings), Métis and Inuit also participate in contemporary powwows, and smaller powwows are hosted by educational institutions…
The two main types of powwows are traditional and competition, the primary difference being that competition powwow dancers (and often the musicians) compete for cash prizes. Both types of powwow have ceremonial and social elements, and both serve to foster pride among Indigenous peoples, and preserve and enrich traditions and culture. – The Canadian Encyclopedia
We found a parking spot in the field, then wandered through the rows of vehicles and campers, past the food kiosks and craft vendors, by the kids and the dogs and, finally, around the dancers making last minute costume adjustments, to the circular structure in the middle of the sports field. The performance area was protected from the sun by a canvas roof. Bleachers were set up under the tent on the periphery of the dance floor with the MC’s booth located at the southwest corner. The drumming and singing groups were set up next to the dance area, in front of the bleachers. Slowly, the spectators finished their visiting, and eating, and shopping, and came inside to fill the stands.
The Grand Entry always begins the event. This is the parade of dignitaries and dancers who enter to the accompaniment of the singers and drummers. First, the Flag bearers, then, the Chiefs, followed by the Warriors (a.k.a. the Veterans), the Princesses, and the male and female dancers grouped according to age and dance type: Men’s Fancy dancers, Grass dancers, Chicken dancers, Traditional dancers, and sometimes, Hoop dancers; Women’s Fancy Shawl dancers, Jingle dancers and Traditional dancers. The Grand Entry is followed by a Round Dance that invites all spectators, and dancers to share in the healing properties of dance and community. It’s during the Round Dance that the music groups are judged. Then the dancing begins in earnest.
It’s difficult to describe how powerful the dancing can be. There are beautiful costumes, beaded, fringed and feathered, whirling and jingling, adorning dancers whose performance is, at once, both athletic and spiritual. The drum beats are loud and deep and rhythmic while the singing is high and pure. It’s just an amazing and unforgettable experience for everyone involved. If you have an opportunity to attend a powwow, don’t pass it up.