Poundmaker Powwow 2010


In July 2010, the Poundmaker Cree Nation hosted an International Powwow, produced in commemoration of the 125th Anniversary of the Northwest Resistance.

Pow-wows celebrate the circle of life by bringing our communities together to sing, dance, and renew kinship bonds and friendships. The dancers form the center of the circle, with drum groups around them forming another circle, with the audience as the next circle…

Today, Pow-wow dancers are considered contemporary warriors, who are the survivors of a war that has been won in terms of retaining an Indian way of life. To be a Pow-wow participant is to honour the struggle of our ancestors and their desire to preserve Indian cultural ways. The Pow-wow is Indian and, as long as it continues, we as Indian people will continue.

Our Legacy

The Event

We found a parking spot in the field, then wandered through the rows of vehicles and campers, past the food kiosks and craft vendors 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.

Grand Entry, Poundmaker Powwow 2010

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. Then the dancing begins in earnest.

Grand Entry, Poundmaker Powwow 2010

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 this powwow season, it’s not to be missed.


All photos, except where noted, copyright D. MacLeod. All rights reserved. Originally published in the Take the Trail blog.

A Tale of Two Calendars

Canada Geese
Canada geese with melting snow, Edmonton, AB

After a lot of years living on North America’s Central Flyway, I’m pretty familiar with the waterfowl migrations that come along with spring.  Each March, I begin my wait for the great flocks of Canada geese, snow geese and all the other migratory birds that advance northward with the melting snow.  I’m sure all of us look forward to hearing the honks overhead as the first V of geese flies by.

In University, I chose a roundabout path to a degree in history.  My course load was all over the map in terms of focus; I’d go off on a tangent if something interested me or inspired me.  For example, an evening course on the policies of the Arts in Canada led me, after a detour or two, to a couple of years studying the Cree language.  I’ve since lost any conversational ability I may have had but I have retained some of the vocabulary.

I find Cree much more connected to the natural world around us than English and much more descriptive, as well.  Many Cree words were constructed after first contact and reveal the influence of European culture on First Nations.  However, much of the language remains very reflective of the deeper rhythms of life.

When I flip the page on my fridge from February to March, I know the geese are on their way, even if the calendar doesn’t specifically spell it out for me.  The Cree word for March, though, does exactly that because niskipîsim means the goose moon.  Other ‘goose’ months are May, opiniyâwewipîsim, meaning the egg laying moon; June, opâskâwehipîsim, translates to the egg hatching moon and August, ohpahowipîsim, is the flying moon.  Names like these seem so much more relevant than those of the ancient gods that label my calendar, now.

In any case, it’s been a heck of a winter all the way around but, finally, the temperatures are warming; the snow is melting and, best of all, the geese have arrived.  There’s nothing on the calendar that says they’ll turn around and go back if the weather’s too cold, but that’s exactly what happened in Winnipeg this year, for the first time on record.  I hope it doesn’t become a habit!

All photos, except where noted, copyright D. MacLeod. All rights reserved. Originally published on the Take the Trail blog.