Every August, during the second weekend, people gather from all over to enjoy community and fun at the annual Tyendinaga Pow Wow. August 11 and 12 marked the 31st year of the celebration in our community.
Chief R. Donald Maracle writes, “The values of our traditional society are based on sharing, caring, learning and respect for creation and each other. I am pleased that the theme of this year’s Pow Wow is ‘Honouring Truth and Reconciliation’”.
Not so long ago, practicing our ceremonies as First Nation’s people, celebrating with our dances and music, speaking our languages and exchanging our gifts and knowledge was banned in Canada. As I enter Tkerhi’to:ton Park, the spirit surrounding me is of joy and sharing. I think about this year’s theme, about how our ancestors hid our cultures underground and we are now able to celebrate them proudly, together.
Ruby Doreen, one of the organizers, explains that to her a Pow Wow is, “…togetherness, love, sharing, visiting, exchanging gifts and learning about other cultures.”
Everyone is welcome to come to a Pow Wow. They happen every weekend in the summer in communities across our country. A quick google search will bring up Pow Wow calendars for any area you might be visiting. Here is the one for Ontario. When attending your first Pow Wow, it’s important to remember that many of the dances, songs and regalia hold special meanings to the people who participate. Whoever is announcing the event will tell you when it is appropriate to take photos but the rule of thumb is simple: just ask!
Ruby says that this year our Pow Wow had more than 1000 attendees on Saturday. So, what draws people? The beautiful dancing and singing, artisans who have booths where you can shop and the delicious food.
The outlying edges of Pow Wow Park are lined with booths full of beautiful creations, educational tools, plants and other goods such as medicines, herbs, teas. People travel from all over to sell their goods at Pow Wows. You will find jewelry, clothing, artwork, beading, books, learning resources and more!
As with all our gatherings, there is a ton of food. Sharing a meal is an important part of coming together with friends, family and community. Pow Wow cuisine is based around traditional foods, sometimes with a contemporary twist. You’ll find traditional game meat, wild rice, corn soup, strawberry drink and more contemporary foods that have become a part of Pow Wow culture, like frybread.
Fry bread is simply a flat dough bread that is deep fried. You can have it however you like – with butter, jam, fried bologna, peameal bacon, but I suggest to do it up right and go for the Indian taco: a piece of fry bread with all the taco fixings on top. Grab a fork for this one because it is messy!
The central part of any Pow Wow is the dancing and singing. People travel from all over to compete, show off their moves and have a good time.
Some dancers you might see are: jingle dress (a dress with metal cones which jingle as the women dance), fancy shawl (the women with the beautiful shawls with long ribbons) and the dancer pictured above doing a hoop dance. There is a lot of significance behind the regalia and dances (too much to explain here in this blog!) so why not head come out to our next Pow Wow, chat with people and see what you can learn!
Shelby Lisk is a Kanyen’kéha:ka (Mohawk) photographer, writer and artist from Kenhtè:ke (Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory).