I love pow-wows and “Echos of a Proud Nation,” currently in it’s eleventh year, is the best in Quebec. Over 10,000 people attended this year’s Kahnawake pow-wow beside the St. Lawrence River. The site is beautiful and it feels strange that just over the river is the bustling city of Montreal. As you come over the bridge you are entering an area where at best it can be described as a wilderness park. It is a testament to Kahnawake that they have kept a place this nice for so long and make such a good use out of it. The pow-wow is designed to do many things for the community. It brings in much needed money and it introduces non-Natives to the Mohawk culture.

The best time to go to a Pow Wow is around 3 p.m. on Saturday, and plan to stay late. I arrived by 2:30 p.m. so as to beat the crowd but it seems everyone else had the same plan. The idea behind arriving at around 3 is that by then, the competition will be in full swing and you will see the best dancers. There is a supper break in the late afternoon/early evening which will give you time to shop at the vendor booths circling the arena. You will also get to see the second Grand Entry, which is usually shortly after the break, and which signals the beginning of the night session. Unfortunately, this year the second Grand Entry was rained out. This is always a problem for pow-wows that are outdoors.

Of course my first stop was to look at the food vendors. There were over 28 on the grounds selling everything from traditional corn soup to venison sausages, buffalo and caribou burgers, Mi’kmaq lobster, salmon and wild rice dishes. It was like a dream come true as I wandered around with my strawberry drink (as good as the homemade lemonade) sampling different tastes. My friend Tony pigged out on an Indian Taco dish. Just for the food the pow wow was a success in my eyes… er belly. A word to the wise, though; food and drink is sometimes expensive but you can bring your own in.

I spoke to some of the vendors (there were 101 ) and they said they were pleased with sales. In some places I couldn’t even get close to ssee what was on offer, the crowd was so thick.

Most pow wows are held in the country away from the conveniences we all take for granted. Many of the Pow Wow grounds are dry, which means what it says: there is no water. These tips will help you to get the most pleasure from your experience. These are some of the things I have learned from just being there.

1. If you’re in a hurry, don’t go. When you enter the grounds you’re on “Indian time.” Forget clocks, time and schedules. Be in the moment in every sense of the word. Nothing but nothing starts on time.

2. Take water, water and more water; some to drink yourself, some to share with someone who may not have any, and some to keep yourself cool. Take a washcloth in a container with a small amount of water to keep it wet so you can wipe your hands and face. Don’t get overheated. Nobody likes a ride home or to the hospital in an ambulance. It just ruins the day and this is an unnecessary risk to take.

3. Wear loose, comfortable clothing that does not bind. Be conservative. A pow wow is really not the appropriate place to wear your skimpiest mini-skirt, or the shortest shorts you own, or your scanty bikini top. However if you must, have an escort; I’m available and can be reached at the Nation office.

4. Remember that you’re going to be walking on dusty, uneven ground. You’re also going to be weaving your way through crowds of people. Wear comfortable walking shoes or sneakers that give your feet some support, and that will protect your toes if you’re stepped on.

5. Be sure your children are dressed the same way. Cute sun-suits lead to terrible sunburns, and little sandals invite bruised toes, twisted ankles and rock bruises. Take a hat to protect their head and face when the sun gets high. If your child is a toddler or younger, take the stroller. Be sure children know where the announcer’s booth is. If you should get separated, tell them to go to the announcer and ask him to call you over the loudspeaker system. Don’t panic — you just can’t see them and pow-wows are generally very safe places.

6. Take folding beach chairs to sit on and, if you have an umbrella you can attach to the chair, wonderful. There is little to no natural shade around the arena, and you will welcome that umbrella. Stake out your spot outside the hay bales or arena markers and plant your chair. Be aware of the reserved areas. Don’t be rude and sit in someone else’s chair, or in a spot that is marked with someone else’s belongings.

7. Take a hat for yourself, and sunscreen for everyone. There is often little shelter, and the sun can be merciless. The temperatures can get extreme. Now, don’t wimp out. Look at what the dancers are wearing, and the heat they’re dancing in. They don’t have light summer regalia and buckskin is damn hot. I admire the dancers for their endurance.

8. Take toilet paper. Yes, that’s right and I’m serious. There are portable toilets on the grounds, but if there is a large crowd, the toilet paper won’t last long. Find the portables early so that, when the need arises, you’ll know where they are. If the crowd is a large one, you know there’ll be lines. Be sure you give yourself enough time to make it. I wish I had remembered this one as I had to search through a few portapotties to find one with paper this year. If you’ve forgotten and can’t find any then steal some from a food vendor. It may be scratchy but it’s better than leaves.

9. Depending on the place and time of year take sweaters for everyone, and bring a flashlight. Once the sun goes down, it gets cool and, after the heat of the day, it’s easy to catch a chili. Just be properly prepared. It also gets very dark because most of the light comes from portable lighting in the immediate vicinity of the arena and the vendor booths. A good flashlight will keep you from stepping in holes, or tripping, or otherwise stumbling around.

10. If you’re on a special diet, or will only eat a particular kind of food, take it with you. There are food vendors who sell a variety of food which is cooked fresh on the spot. This is the place to try an Indian Taco, or Indian Fry Bread, or any of the other Native foods offered. It is ail wonderful, but may not fit into a special diet. A cooler with your own food and soft drinks will ease your mind and pocketbook.

11. If you take your pet, be sure it stays on a leash or, if you take a bird, tether it. Many vendors and Pow Wow participants travel with large dogs, some of them wolf hybrids, both for their personal safety and to protect the many valuable things they carry. You don’t want your pet involved in a confrontation. Also, if you take your pet, be considerate of others and take your pooper scooper as well to clean up any messes it may make.

12. Some pow wows have camp grounds, space for RV and trailer hook-ups, and cooking pits. This is the perfect opportunity to take your motor home or camper or any other type of RV on wheels. The promotional flyers usually mention whether or not camping is permitted. If they don’t, call the number given and ask. It is common for tents to be pitched around the grounds, but the earth may not be solid enough for a motor home. Don’t assume — ask before you go.

13. If you plan to stay overnight in a motel, be wise and plan ahead. The nearest town may be miles away, and their accommodations may be very limited. Rooms will be scarce because of people coming into the area for the event, both participants and visitors. If you are not familiar with the surroundings, call the nearest chamber of commerce, or get yourself a motel directory, and find out for sure what’s available.