It was our first Pow Wow and the first put on by a joint effort of the Eastern Door and the Nation, both independent Native newspapers. It was a case of Mohawks from the south and Cree from the north meeting to make something great happen. For the First Nations people who now live in cities like Montreal, powwows have been an important cultural anchor. It is a time to get back to roots and culture and a time to socialize. You meet everyday friends, friends you haven’t seen in a while and you make new friends. It is also a time when two or more different cultures can come together and meet each other without politics getting in the way. A bridge across the cultural gaps as it were.
It was a traditional pow wow located in the Old Port of Montreal and one that was a lot of fun. At one point there was a non-Native dance-like-a-Native contest. Some people took it seriously and some were just hilarious. One person remarked to me that they had never heard so much laughter and cheering at a pow wow before.
I know that a few people came from the U.S. including our English M.C. Star aka Bruce F. Curlis, a Nipmuc from Massachusetts. His wife Shirley said she found the Pow Wow to be a great one. If so, then Star and our own Aaron MacDevit, the French M.C., were the ones who guided it in that direction. They had people howling like coyotes literally and after a while when they would call for a coyote howl the audience would answer and loudly at that. If the resulting howl was short of standards Star would remark it sounded like a sick weak coyote and call for another. Not only did they work the crowd up, they made it laugh till it hurt.
Our pow wow was opened by Ernie Benedict, a Mohawk elder. Along with him as Pow wow Elders were George and Louise Diamond. George got up and sang three traditional Cree songs on the drum. It was so beautiful that his daughter Virginia, who was translating for him, was moved to tears. People listening to the music were so quiet you could hear a shhh if someone made a sound. It was wonderful to bring Cree culture south and have it accepted in such a respectful manner. He gave a gift of caring and love to us all.
Of course, the drum groups that came went all out and the crowd loved it. Bertie Wapachee, the Cree Health Board Chairman even sat down with one of the drum groups and joined them in a few songs. I learnt something new about him that day. Before anybody will dance, the tobacco does. A smattering of tobacco is put on the membrane of the big drum, which is hit softly by the men sitting around it. Then people can dance, and dance they did in a colourful display of pride in Aboriginal heritage. They were beautiful in their regalia as they danced to the drums. It was the sight and sounds that drew many of the non-Natives into the pow wow.
One of the things I liked was a demonstrating artist by the name of Vernon Chrisjohn, who made bows by hand. He is an Oneida who came up from Malden, New York. Another demonstrating artist had people painting the outside and inside of a teepee inner cover. Another taught people how to make their own dream catchers.
The food as always was good. There was moose meatballs, venison, caribou and bison burgers, a caribou stew, wild rice, bannock and some lobsters caught by Native fishermen earning that “moderate living.” I tried just about everything and can say it was delicious.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much time to socialize as I would have liked as I was running all over the place trying to make sure everything was running well. I wasn’t the only one and must say that the pow wow committee, volunteers and Beesum Communications staff all put forward their best foot to make this pow wow a success. I thank them for all the time they spent doing the event. The only way in which it wasn’t a success is that we lost money doing it so we won’t be able to make donations to the organizations that we wanted to help out.