Nfld. & Labrador

Miawpukek preparing for big celebration with a powwow open to all

COVID-19 derailed plans for a community celebration for the past two years, but now Miawpukek's annual powwow is back
Mardina Joe sews some beads into what will become a pair of moccasins at the Glenn John Arts & Crafts centre in Miawpukek. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

They'll do whatever it takes to get the jobs done — and usually, it takes long days and long nights.

Even this week, with just days to go, customers could be coming in to place orders, or see what last-minute options are available in store.

In the lead-up to Miawpukek's annual powwow, the craft makers at the Glenn John Arts & Crafts Centre shift into overdrive.

Needles, thread and beads are flying — and this year, with the community on Newfoundland's south coast celebrating its first powwow in three years, one that will be open to all, the excitement is even greater.

Mardina Joe runs the Glenn John craft shop. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

"It's really busy, because people is coming in left and right," said Ann Marie Jeddore, a moccasin maker in Miawpukek.

"You don't want anybody to be left without anything for the powwow, right?… If you got to cart it home in the evening time, you cart it home, bring it back the next day."

And just keeping up with orders won't be enough, because there are lots of sales to be made on the powwow weekend itself.

"They just clean us out at the powwows, and especially for the moccasins,"  said Mardina Joe, who runs the craft shop, which is named in memory of her son. "We have to go right up to the last minute."

These moccasin makers are flat out in advance of Miawpukek's powwow

4 months ago
Duration 4:42
Mardina Joe and Ann Marie Jeddore, craft makers in the Miawpukek First Nation in Conne River, are experts in manufacturing moccasins

The COVID-19 pandemic derailed the annual powwow, but this year, for the first time since 2019, visitors from outside the community — also known as Conne River — will be welcomed with open arms to the three-day event, which starts Friday.

"If they're like me, they're really excited to finally get a proper gathering for everyone," said Kevin Drew, a lead organizer of the powwow. "The last two years, it's been like a struggle."

'Spirit-lifting'

The community has been waiting to celebrate its 25th annual powwow for some time. It was first scheduled for 2020, then for 2021 — and both times, the COVID-19 pandemic forced its cancellation.

"I think everyone is anxious for the powwow because it is coming out of a long two years of COVID," said Chief Mi'sel Joe.

Joe said the powwow tradition — called a Mawi'omi in the Mi'kmaw language — started as a way to celebrate a good year, and share good fortune. He said the upcoming event is sure to be "spirit-lifting" for his community.

What's the Mi'kmaw word for whale? Conne River kids share what they know

3 months ago
Duration 1:45
Carolyn Stokes talks to children at Miawpukek First Nation who are improving their Indigenous vocabulary

Along with music, dancing and sweat lodges, community members will also hear the Mi'kmaw language from visitors to the powwow. Joe and the First Nation government are working to reintroduce the language to the community, after it was stamped out by a Catholic priest about 100 years ago.

Drew said he's expecting more than a thousand visitors to this year's powwow, including many guests from outside the province.

"Everyone from anywhere is invited, and they're welcome," Drew said. "They come from all over the place. It's a big gathering." 

A powwow's highlights, according to kids

3 months ago
Duration 2:56
Children in the Miawpukek First Nation explain to CBC reporter Carolyn Stokes just what you can see at a powwow — and what they're looking forward to the most.

The powwow grounds will be filled with vendors, and the biggest attraction might be what Drew calls "Indian tacos," made of fried bread, cheese, sour cream and "a whole lot of delicious."

Trevor Stride, an organizer with a local online radio station, will be broadcasting live from the event for anyone who can't make it in person.

"It's promoting the culture, and for people that can't get there. It's a great place in my heart," he said.

"We've got people that want to listen, that's from away, that can't get home because of COVID of course … and they just want to take part. And I can see where they're coming from because people celebrate their heritage and culture. I know I live by it."

Can’t make the powwow in Miawpukek? This guy has you covered

3 months ago
Duration 2:07
Trevor Stride wants to make sure everybody can celebrate the heritage and culture found at the powwow in Conne River. He runs Miawpukek First Nation Radio and he’ll be broadcasting live from the powwow grounds starting July 1 so anyone with the internet can attend.

Visitors to Miawpukek will get to see different types of traditional and modern Mi'kmaw dancing, as well as regalia and music.

The powwow is even a place to find love. Joe says he's performed a few marriage ceremonies at the annual gathering, and has witnessed other relationships take root there as well.

"Romantic symbolism at the powwow, absolutely," he said with a smile. "I support that."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

CBC Atlantic is bringing you extensive coverage of the Powwow Trail 2022. (CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Garrett Barry

Journalist

Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander, N.L.

now