The Pow Wow is one of the First Nations’ most important cultural events. Not only do they come together to meet friends and family, they also invite the non-Aboriginal population to come and discover their culture and traditions. These meetings, mostly in the spring and summer, are gaining in popularity. In the United States and Canada, hundreds of communities have embarked on the Pow Wow trail and have been on the tour list for several decades. A certain uniformity is present in the organization of these gatherings, although we denote certain regional variants: powwows of the South, powwows of the North and those of the East.
Over the years, practitioners, artists, elders and organizers have introduced singing, drumming, dancing, regalia, culinary and the commercial arts associated with this practice. The Nations visit each other to celebrate but also to exchange their practices. This allows precisely this uniformity that was spoken of, but also the possibility of making these events more sought after and unique. The Pow Wow concept acts “as a major form of affirmation of Aboriginal culture and spirituality, but also as a practice of solidarity among the Aboriginal nations it unites”.
The heart of the powwow is the great drum, around which the players of this instrument will interpret traditional rhythms and songs that will testify to messages about values, transmission of culture, perpetuation of tradition, honouring Mother Earth and all that it gives us, the Ancestors who have walked before us, the Descendants whom we wish will carry our ancestral knowledge, the bonds created with all that surrounds us, and so on. In short, it is really celebrating Life. But it is also seen as the expression of indigenous pride, a Renaissance, since the lifting of the cultural bans of the 1950s.
Some historians associate the birth of the spectacular side of these events, more precisely the entry parade of the shows mounted by William Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, where he portrayed Amerindians on horseback with all that is stereotyped, from 1883 to 1913. First Nations have owned the expression of their traditions, to design a geographical circuit of thousands of kilometres of powwows, which take place over a period of two to four days.
Continued next week!