Membertou 400 celebrations wrap up

A four-day First Nations powwow on the Halifax Common that attracted thousands of people wrapped up Sunday.

Largest powwow in Atlantic Canada

A four-day First Nations powwow on the Halifax Common that attracted thousands of people wrapped up  Sunday.

The Grand Chief Membertou 400 gathering marked the 400th anniversary of the baptism of Grand Chief Henri Membertou in 1610 into the Catholic church.

A Mi'kmaq cultural village, consisting of 16 large teepees, was erected on the Common to house cultural demonstrations, basket weaving, storytelling, drum making and more.

On Friday night, Buffy Sainte-Marie performed and there were powwow international dancing and drumming competitions throughout the weekend. All events were free.

On Thursday, a reenactment of the baptism of Membertou and 20 members of his family took place in Annapolis Royal — formerly known as Port Royal when it was settled by the French in 1605. Membertou and his family also took French names in baptism.

History making

Jim Augustine, of the Big Cove First Nations band in New Brunswick, said this gathering is making history for the Mi'kmaq people.

"This is something that's been dreamed up for a long time. A lot of people have been talking about an event like this where we can get all the communities in Atlantic Canada and invite some of our brothers and sisters from out west, " he said Sunday.

"As far as I know, this is the first competition powwow that they've had anywhere in Atlantic Canada. They've tried a few, but it never worked out. This is the biggest powwow ever on the East Coast."

Augustine, who has been acting as MC at powwows for more than 20 years across Atlantic Canada, said some First Nations people are reluctant to celebrate aboriginals' first contact with the white man.

"Some people, because of what has happened to our people with the churches and what happened to the people in residential schools, there's a mixed feeling about that. Some people were a little hesitant of coming here," he said.

"But, with me, I just kind of go with the flow and everything has worked out great."