P.E.I.'s Indigenous communities celebrate 25th Abegweit Pow Wow

Members of P.E.I.'s indigenous communities celebrated the 25th annual Abegweit Pow Wow at Panmure Island Cultural Park this weekend.

'The pride is unbelievable'

Traditional Indigenous dancers perform at the 25th annual Abegweit Pow Wow at Panmure Island Cultural Park (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Members of P.E.I.'s Indigenous communities celebrated the 25th annual Abegweit Pow Wow at Panmure Island Cultural Park this weekend.

Dancers, drummers and other performers were at the park to mark the occasion.

Lisa Cooper, president of the Native Council of PEI, said the weekend was an expression of strength for Indigenous people who were at one time kept apart.

"It was illegal to gather, it was illegal to gather politically, to have pow wows and for us to be able to continue this shows resilience of our people," she said. "The pride is unbelievable." 

Sharing wisdom

Cooper said the Pow Wow, which features performances from traditional drummers, dancers and singers, is a way to educate and involve the community's young people.

"It's an opportunity for us to teach our values to our kids. Our dancing, our traditional teachings, sweats, sacred fire," she said. "It's raising our kids in our community to show them a healthy way of living."

Drummers perform traditional songs for Indigenous dancers at the Pow Wow. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

"This is a community I grew up on. It's the only thing I know," she said.

For traditional dancer Bert One Breath Mitchell, it's about educating non-Indigenous communities about his culture.

"We're here to celebrate that with our native and non-native brothers and sisters," he said. "It's a positive showing and display of our culture and our ceremonies and it puts a lot of our people in a positive light."

'I embrace who I am'

Mitchell has attended the annual Pow Wow for the last 15 years.

He said he pow wows every weekend because dancing is a way for him to reclaim his culture.

Traditional dancer Bert One Breath Mitchell said he's been dancing his entire life. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

"It took me a lot of courage to come back though, because I carried a lot of shame from behaviours when I was not practicing the traditional way," he said.

"I remember as a little boy, dancing in a locked bathroom, to myself," said Mitchell. "I was taken away from my culture at a young age, so to find my way back to my culture, it's important that I keep my feet on the red road."

At 56, Mitchell said he has no intentions of resting his feet any time soon.

"I practice the traditions and I embrace who I am, and nothing, or nobody or anything is ever going to take my culture away from me again," he said.