Wednesday, July 13, 2011

16 - PowWOW!

Greetings from Mi'kmaqi!  I have arrived in Nova Scotia and spent my first day at the Mawiomi Powwow on Halifax Commons.  Luckily, I arrived in time to take in the last day of the ceremonies. What a day! This is the largest Powwow east of Montreal and includes an international dancing competition with dancers from all over North America. The celebration is only in its second year. It was started last summer to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the baptism of Chief Membertou of the Mi'kmaq nation on June 24, 1610.  Last year's powwow even included a visit by Queen Elizabeth II.

The site of the Halifax Commons is significant. This is the location of the actual burying of the hatchet ceremony on June 25th, 1761. The ceremony, which included Mi'kmaq Chiefs and British officials, took place in Halifax in an attempt to forge a new relationship together after the fall of Louisbourg in 1758.

I have been fortunate in my life to have attended many powwows, but I have never seen one of this magnitude. The organizers set up an interactive cultural village of Wigwams where you could take in cultural displays throughout the day including different aspects of Mi'kmaq culture. This was great because the intimacy of the setting in the wigwams allowed people to watch closely and learn from the artisans as they worked. I attended demonstrations of basket making and quill work, which I will write about specifically in upcoming entries. There was also a sacred fire which is tended and burns throughout the duration of the powwow.

There were many vendors set up and I had great conversations with many artists throughout the day.
The highlight of the day however, was the grand entry and the dancing. The site of those flags and and dancers gets me every time. I am including a slide show below. I think the pictures say it all.  I hope you will enjoy them. Most of the dancers are Mi'kmaq, but there were many from other parts of Canada and the United States. The dancers wear regalia (not costumes) and it is the tradition for each man and woman to make their own, including the detailed beadwork and quill work. It takes years and most will continue to add to it throughout their lives. The regalia was nothing short of magnificent as you will see. Thank you to all those who took time to speak with me, answered my questions, and allowed me to take pictures. I learned so much from all of you and am richer for it.

The music in the slideshow is by A Tribe Called Mi'kmaq. The song is called Calling All Warriors and is off their album We Honor the Water. Thank you to the band who allowed me to use this with permission. The album is available to purchase through itunes or by contacting the band directly. Enjoy!

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