A festival of colourful costumes and energetic dancing greeted onlookers at Pictou Landing First Nation’s 27th annual powwow on Saturday.
As a steady drumbeat and spiritual chants echoed through the school gym, First Nations performers from across the Maritimes whirled like dervishes in a ceremony attended by Nova Scotia’s Lieutenant Governor Arthur LeBlanc and other dignitaries.
“It’s grown every year and for me it’s a gathering of friends, it’s a gathering of nations and it’s always a really uplifting, powerful moment for all of us,” said Andrea Paul, chief of Pictou Landing First Nation.
She added that a powwow can help a community heal from past injustices such as the lingering impact of residential schools on the Mi’kmaq and other First Nations in Canada.
The key is people connecting with the drumbeat, which represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth. For those attendees needing a more personal experience, a sacred fire was set up in the ballpark down the road for quiet prayer and reflection.
Many of the dancer’s outfits were intricate traditional designs including beads and feathers.
Local performer Carter Hatfield said that setting up a costume first meant a trip to the craft store to gather the materials such as ribbons and beads.
The outfit is then put together in a process including prayers. Finally, the would-be performer visits the sacred fire, where an elder will offer a blessing using tobacco.
“Then you can go and dance with it,” said Hatfield.
The News also caught up with Mary-Beth Robichaud from next-door Prince Edward Island.
She said that the most important aspect of a powwow for her was “practicing my culture and traditions.”
While PEI is a small island there are two reserves and First Nations culture is a part of the islanders’ way of life, according to Robichaud.
She offered some simple advice to anyone seeking to learn more about Atlantic Canadian First Nations culture.
“Come to powwows,” she said. “Really come and experience it in person, it’s a lot better.”
The powwow at Pictou Landing was well attended with hundreds of people packed into the local school’s gym, including people of both First Nations and other backgrounds.