I attended our annual Treaty Days on my home reserve. For our First Nation, the celebration is our biggest gathering for the year.
This year, for the first time in many, we held a traditional powwow. A traditional powwow is different from a competitive powwow. A competitive powwow is when the dancers compete for prizes – generally money – whereas a traditional powwow is simply where people get together to sing and dance. One doesn’t have to bring food at a traditional powwow because all people are fed.
All singers and dancers are given a small gift for their participation at a traditional powwow. We had a great turn out at our powwow, even though there were major competitive powwows going on at the same time. This is the first powwow I’ve attended on my home reserve. Let me say I’ve never been so proud of my little reserve.
Then, a couple of weeks later, we held our Treaty Days. My home reserve has a small population. We have a large land base, but our population doesn’t reflect it. Our land base is large because of investment and foresight of previous chiefs and councils. In the past six months we’ve lost around 20 members. This is huge loss for a small community. In fact it ripped at the heart of our community. The morale and spirit was at an all-time low. A successful traditional powwow and Treaty Days was exactly what we needed.
Every First Nation generally has some kind of celebration for the treaties. I realize there are many who don’t understand the treaties, including many First Nations people. The only thing I know about the treaties is they were signed many decades ago. I am not a treaty Indian by choice; I was born into it.
It often irritates me when I hear people complaining about the treaties when they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. I’ve studied the treaties, even at the post-secondary level. I’ve read probably every book published about the treaties. I’ve even read unpublished articles about the subject. Still I don’t fully understand them. About the only thing I know is they work. They work not only for First Nations people but for all Canadians.
It’s been years since I danced at a powwow, so many I forget. I managed to put together an outfit to take part in the grand entry. It was during one of those heat wave days and the sun was unwilling to move from the middle of the cloudless sky. I was worried I would pass out right in front of all the people. I was lucky, though, because I was placed right next to the RCMP. I knew if I fell over they would try and give me mouth to mouth. And, that wasn’t about to happen.