The Pow Wow Tradition, Simply Awesome
My first Pow Wow experience was on the Piapot First Nation. My wife encouraged me to go having attended her first Pow Wow at the Kawacatoose Fist Nation a couple of weeks earlier. I thought I knew what to expect, but in hindsight, I really didn't.
We arrived at the Pow Wow arbour in time for the Saturday evening grand entry. There were at least nine sets of drummers and singers set up all around the arbour. They were each called on in turn to take turns playing songs for the dancers. You couldn't help but be impressed by how they immediately began playing whatever style of song requested of them. The dignitaries (tribal leaders, aboriginal war veterans and even a member of the RCMP in full uniform) were the first people to lead the grand entry followed by the dancers. The men proceeded the women and children. Within minutes, the arbour was filled with colour, movement, sound and somehow larger than life. It was a total assault on the senses and breathtakingly beautiful.
We personally knew several of the dancers and their partners which added to the competition part of the dancing. We had our bias favourites. In the end, one of our friends took home some prize money having bested as many as 40 other competitors.
Perhaps I expected all of the regalia and pageantry but I didn't expect how welcoming the experience felt. Beyond the friendly dancing competition, the Pow Wow was clearly about developing and strengthening friendships. People interacted with each other with a certain fluidity and familiarity. There was a deep sense of community present that I know I've never felt in my neighbourhood. Throughout the evening I never felt that I was on the outside looking in. Though clearly a minority, I felt as accepted as any other attendee. We left at midnight a little cold and tired. The drumming, dancing and singing continued well into the night. We could hear it fade into the distance as we drove away.