It had been years since I danced in a powwow. When I was younger, like many young aboriginal people, I dreamed of following the Powwow Trail. This is where people will gather and dance, but it’s more of a gathering of old friends.
Most of the time I would find other people on the Powwow Trail and pitch in on gas money as we travelled community to community. Basically it was mostly the same people we would run into. It didn’t matter if the traditional gathering was in Saskatchewan, Alberta or the United States: we would find people we met along the trail before and we would share stories. It’s a great way to travel and meet people, even if they are sometimes the same people.
A few years ago, I took my niece to her swimming competitions. We would travel to cities, towns and villages for her competitions. After a while, I noticed it was mostly the same people. I called her swimming meets “a white man’s powwow,” because they were similar to First Nations powwows, where old friends get together and share stories.
A few years back, my home reserve decided to host a traditional powwow. This is similar to a competition powwow, except there is no competitive dancing. It’s simply a gathering to sing, dance and visit.
Growing up on my rez, there were no traditional gatherings of any kind. Any social gathering was mostly church-sponsored and any mention of First Nations culture wasn’t allowed. Even dancing was hidden, just like that movie Footloose. However, things have opened up over the years, and the people of our home reserve started going back to their culture. Many still speak Cree today despite the fact they attended residential schools where “beat the Indian out of the Indian” was widely practised.
The first powwow started three years ago. This is huge for our reserve, because hardly anyone had experience, not only in dancing and singing but also in the actual organization. It was amazing to see the community get together to make sure everything went smoothly.
In the first year we only had eight dancers from my home reserve. Last year, we had more than 25. This year, we expect many more.
Even though I have danced in many powwows, there is no better feeling then hearing the drums of our nation in my home territory. This year is also extra special because the first eight dancers are now older and experienced, and they have stepped up to help the younger dancers. This basically what a powwow is for: to pass on the traditions to the younger people, so they can be proud of their culture and proud of themselves as the direct descendants of the founders of North America.
I may be a lot older since the last time I put on a pair of moccasins. I may move a little more slowly, but when I hear the drums echo throughout the land, I couldn’t care less because this is how it’s been done for thousands of years.