1 - Last Saturday, after my acupuncture session in the morning, I grabbed a bite to eat and headed over to the Halifax Commons to attend my very first Pow Wow.
2 - This was part of the Membertou 400 celebrations, which honoured Chief Membertou's 1610 decision to become baptised into the Catholic faith.
Membertou could read the signs concerning the imminent migration of French settlers at the turn of the 17th century, and sought to create a diplomatic solution to an obvious culture-altering event. As a sign of good faith, he and many members of his family were baptised at Port Royal.
In fact, his embrace of the French culture smoothed the way for strong French and native relations. For a century and a half, the two peoples lived side by side in relative harmony.
Unfortunately, the arrival of the English in the mid-1700's threw this arrangement into disarray. The historic animosity between the English and French, combined with the English tendency to 'civilize' indigenous cultures, led to the mass deportation of French Acadians out of what is now the Atlantic provinces, and drove the First Nations people to retreat from contact with Europeans. What had begun as a welcoming gesture towards the church for the Mi'kmaq decayed as their previous French allies joined in the British efforts to eradicate native culture through the use of residential schools.
3 - Within the past several decades, the First Nations people have re-emerged as a vibrant cultural group.
As someone descended from the merging of the French and Mi'kmaq cultures, I've been longing to attend a pow wow for many years. When I found out that we were having one right here I could barely contain my joy.
Here the master of ceremonies opens the second day of the pow wow with a prayer in his own language. He invited all in attendance to join in, using whichever manner we were used to for praying.
4 - Then the assembled Mi'kmaq and their invited Relatives from out west and down south entered the circle, led by an Elder from Eskasoni, a native band from Cape Breton.
He was very old and walked very slowly, but he in fact danced as well as he was able, and needed no assistance in carrying the eagle standard.
5 - Following behind the Elder, there were First Nations members of the Armed Forces and The Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
6 - Included in the competitive parts of the festivities were the drum circles and singers. As these groups competed, they provided the music for the dancers, who filled the circle. I loved it when the MC introduced each group and then told them to "Make 'em dance."
7 - There were all ages involved in the pow wow. I really loved this little girl in the green dress. She was completely serious and really grooved to the music, listening carefully to the rhythms and dancing very solemnly to what she heard.
8 - The amount of young men involved really excited me. The arts always seem to draw far more female participation than male, but here the men were out in force.
I couldn't take my eyes off them as they danced.
The guy in the hunting pose in the center of the shot also sang and drummed in one of the circles directly in front of my seat in the bleachers.
9 - After the initial opening parade through the circle, the MC called the different groups of dancers out so they could do their thing. The women included Fancy Shawl and Jingle Dancers.
10 - I was totally impressed with the Golden Age dancers, especially this woman in the red. She had such a regal way of gesturing with her eagle feather.
11 - The men were awesome!
They included Men's Traditional and Fancy Feather Dancers.
12 - The young dancer in blue was also a double-duty performer, drumming and singing as well as dancing, just like the young guy in black with yellow regalia.
13 - And how could I be anything but awestruck at the level of dancing done by these young performers? The little one in turquois was just amazing. At one point, as they moved around the circle, she danced on her own as the group moved along in a bunch. She was so intense, she held the crowd's attention as easily as a seasoned adult performer. So, so impressive.
Thanks for coming along to the Pow Wow with me! Hope we can get to another one soon.
Akelamalu says I would so love to see that for myself but your pictures capture everything so well. I was watching Queen Elizabeth arriving in Nova Scotia on TV last night - the mounties looked so fabulous waiting in line to greet her. :)
Anthony North says This looks a brilliant and culturally important event.
Adelle Laudan says Thanks soooo much for sharing this with us. I've researched all of what you showed me over the past couple of years for my writing. Happy T13!