Jingle dress competition, Manito Ahbee pow wow (CBC)
I went to my first pow wow today, and it was quite a big "first" event: the International Competition Pow Wow, as part of the Manito Ahbee festival.
Being a pow wow newbie, I'm grateful for the Pow Wow 101 lesson Joanne Soldier offered to CBC Manitoba staffers like myself last week. But as I took my seat inside the MTS Centre at noon, I still didn't fully know what to expect.
Dancers in their regalia walked up and down the aisles, making last-minute adjustments and getting ready for the Grand Entry. I tried to recall what Joanne told us about the different types of regalia: traditional, grass dancers, jingle dresses, fancy bustle, fancy shawl. It took a while (and the Pow Wow 101 info conveniently printed in the program!) before I could figure some of the styles apart. What I loved most was that everyone had their own personal style, so no two dancers looked alike.
When the Grand Entry got underway, I heard the MC say there were something like 1,260 dancers on the floor. That number may look impressive on paper, but it looked even more so when you see them all dancing in this large arena space. These big feathers, brightly coloured ribbons, shiny jingles and vibrant shawls were all bobbing and swaying in rhythm with the drum beats.
Meanwhile, I was surrounded by the peppery smell of sage and the voices and beats of the drummers, amplified significantly by the loud speaker system inside the MTS Centre. I could feel their songs go right through me. Overall, the whole thing created a bit of sensory overload, but in a good way.
After some speeches, the event launched into the first intertribal dance, in which everyone -- even if you're not Aboriginal -- can take part. I heard of this and wanted to take part, but felt a little nervous at first.
Then, as more people joined in the big circle, I took a big leap (or two) onto the floor and wove myself into the action. I was surrounded by dancers in their full regalia, some dancing and others chatting with each other. There were also folks like myself in plain clothes, just walking along.
It felt like such a profound spiritual experience, but it also felt like a good ol' community gathering at the same time. And perhaps that's the whole point.
Donna Lee, CBC reporter