It has been 15 years since Kahnawake Mohawks held their first Powwow and judging by this year’s turnout, the show only gets better with age.
Year after year the spectacle – which was created to help heal the scars of the Oka crisis – seems to get bigger and better. That result held true July 9 and 10 despite Saturday’s downpour.
Dancers dueled in over 30 competitive categories from the smoke dance to the women’s jingle, all the way up to the 60-plus category of Golden Age Traditional Dance.
The event was created not only to stitch the wounds suffered within the Mohawk Nation, but also to teach non-natives of the plight of the Mohawks. The Oka Crisis was a 78-day standoff that saw the Quebec government scramble to save face after a horribly botched police raid at the nearby Mohawk community of Kanesatake.
Sûreté du Québec officers stormed a peaceful group of Mohawk protestors in the early hours of July 11, 1990. The people were camping in the area known as the pines, determined to halt expansion of the Village of Oka’s nine-hole golf course.
The police launched tear gas at the gathering of mostly women and children and then turned tail and took off, some without their vehicles. SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay was shot and killed in the turmoil. The Canadian Armed Forces then besieged the community for the rest of the summer.
Every year, organizers of the Powwow put on a showcase of Native traditional food and dance to somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 people. Here’s another 15 years!