Powwow season in Canada kicked off last week with the 30th annual Odawa powwow, May 26-28 in Ottawa.
And what a start it was! The beautiful weather was shining down on spectators and the colorful dancers and Indian tacos were a big hit all around.
Touted as the first powwow of the season, the Odawa entry is somewhat quaint and in an out-of-the-way location at Ottawa’s Municipal Campground, 20 minutes out of the city itself. It is attended by over 18,000 people each year and is a sure sign of impending summer weather.
The Odawa powwow is put on by the Odawa Native Friendship Centre and was started as a means for urban Aboriginals to re-connect with their roots, no matter how far away from their territory they are.
Former Grand Council Deputy Chief Paul Gull was on hand with his wife Stella.
He told the Nation that he usually attends the powwow each year but this year was extra special because two children from Eeyou Istchee had their walking-out ceremony. Although Gull admitted he missed that part, he did show up for the feast afterwards.
“I found the powwow a little small this year,” said Gull, who is working on the illegal squatters file for the Grand Council, among other things.
Innu artist Richard Fontaine was also on hand. His work is renowned in Native circles and he has been invited once again at the end of the year to display his work at the Louvre in Paris.
Dancers of all ages competed for the various prizes that ranged in category from the Women’s fancy shawl dance, to the men’s grass dance, all the way to the golden age dancers (45 and up) and back down to the baby roots; the tiny tots (0-6) exhibition and the boys and girls competition (7-12).
Sheri Jerome, an Algonquin from Kitigan Zibi, was there with her three-year-old son Tavynn. He could be considered a veteran of the little ones as he has been dancing since before he could walk. “He started dancing when he was six months old and he only started walking at nine months,” his beaming mother told the Nation.
They follow the powwow trail every summer. Although he cannot compete because of his age, Tauynn still dances and wows the spectators at every turn.
“The first powwow he went to was in Cutler, Ontario, at the Serpent River First Nation,” Jerome said.
At the Odawa powwow last year Tavynn caught the eye of the judges and the next day they awarded him a special accolade called the expedition prize because of his exceptional dancing and regalia.
“It’s in him,” said his proud mom who used to dance herself. “It inspires him. He loves to be at powwows and even when there is no music, he dances.”
“Pride,” she replied when asked what she gets out of seeing her son dance. “I can’t describe it; it’s an amazing moment. I’m speechless. It’s such an overwhelming feeling to see him dancing. I can see the pride in his eyes.”