IndigNation | by Bev Cardinal
Taanishi! A while back, Planet S’ editor suggested powwows “might be a good IndigNation topic,” adding he’d “like to read about them.” Really? That’s why I write this thing? Does Whitworth not know about The Google? The YouTube? The Interwebs? There’s lots of accurate information about powwows online, along with videos of powwow drummers, singers and dancers. Would he like to go to a powwow? Most reserves and tribal councils have websites and Facebook pages with the dates, times and locations of powwows across this great territory.
Alarmingly, there are also videos of Clueless White People trying to dance powwow. Best to ignore these offensive messes. Although I guess if Whitworth so badly wants to know what NOT to do at a powwow, I suppose he could watch them.
Circles And Snagging
So! What’s left to write about? Let’s see!
EVERYONE IS GENUINELY WELCOME Step out of your comfort zone and enjoy a unique, land-based experience that goes back more than 10,000 years! Powwows are First Nations peoples’ way of celebrating and honouring traditions and culture. They’re also great occasions to dance, sing, visit, renew old friendships and make new ones (also known as “snagging”). Powwows are social events!
KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING Two words: Google Maps. Going to the Cowessess First Nation Traditional Powwow Aug. 13–15? Don’t spend three hours driving around Grenfell and Broadview (it’s happened, trust me). The powwow grounds are actually on Cowessess First Nation — top of the hill, overlooking Crooked Lake in the beautiful Qu’Appelle Valley. There’ll be signs! Follow them.
CIRCLES ARE YOUR FRIENDS At the site you’ll see a wonderful, symmetrical order to the set-up. It’s called “circles”.
Simply follow the four circles and you’ll find what you need.
The outer circle is for parking, camping and porta-potties. The next is for food trucks, artisans and craft vendors. Take lots of cash — trust me, you’ll want to try the food and buy stuff you’ll never see anywhere else!
The third circle is for seating. Might be bleachers, might not, so bring a chair and/or blanket, put it down and don’t worry, it won’t get stolen. Don’t sit in front of Elders or “old ones”, because that’s just stupid and disrespectful in any culture. And don’t get all in a huff when someone sets up in front of you — there’s lots of room and you won’t miss a thing.
The fourth circle is for drummers, singers, dancers and important people — not you and me. Do not stray into this circle! And definitely DO NOT start dancing and filming terrible YouTube videos!
BE HUMBLE My family has learned to be very okay with grandmothers, grandfathers and other helpers telling us what to do and where to go. Reverence, humility and respect have served us well. They’ll serve you, too.
There was a time when it was illegal for First Nations people to gather in groups of three or more, and ceremonial gatherings were outlawed. (Were yours? If so, you can relate.) But outlaw drummers continued to drum on outlawed drums, and outlaw singers continued to sing outlawed songs, and outlaw dancers continued to dance outlawed dances. All in outlawed spaces.
They risked it all so First Nations people — especially their children and future generations — would someday be able to celebrate culture openly and proudly.
That day is now! Hiy! Hiy!