For an inaugural powwow, the Mistissini Niimuuhiikaan came off smoothly despite difficult weather conditions, with close to 100 dancers and eight drum groups giving it all they had during the festivities. Bear Creek, a Grammy-nominated drum group, hosted the powwow drums along with singer-songwriter Melissa Pash from Chisasibi.
“It was a big powwow considering it was our first one,” said organizer Luke MacLeod. “The vendors were all really happy, even though we had to move them indoors because of the weather. Some stayed outdoors, but still got a lot of people.” The auditorium was packed with around 500 spectators enjoying all the goods and crafts sold by local artisans.
The powwow’s name came from a conversation with an Elder, who told MacLeod of dancing songs called Niimuuhiikaan. Community Elders expressed pleasure at seeing the traditional drums want them to be played more often. “It is something that we hope to incorporate further into future powwows,” said MacLeod.
It’s taken a long time for the first traditional powwow to take place in Mistissini. “We’ve had other events before, which we called powwows but they were more like summer games,” MacLeod said. “This time it was a traditional type of powwow with the big drums and dancers.”
Niimuuhiikaan has already left its mark on many of the youth who participated as dancers and drummers as well as on visitors who were impressed by the natural beauty and culture of Mistissini. The two days of festivities included a walking-out ceremony and a traditional feast for the entire community. “It’s opened a door for a lot of people to come up and just visit,” said MacLeod.
The newly inaugurated event meant a lot of work for the largely inexperienced organizers. “It took us awhile and it was tough going, but we learned,” MacLeod said.