PEI

Abegweit First Nation shares traditions with future generations in powwow

Abegweit First Nation held its first large powwow in two years this weekend — and everybody was welcome to join.

'It's for everybody'

Abegweit First Nation welcomes all Islanders to powwow

4 months ago
Duration 3:35
Abegweit First Nation held its first big powwow in two years in Scotchfort, P.E.I., after the annual event was put on hold during the pandemic. Here are some of the people who were there explaining what the festivities mean for them and the First Nation community. CBC News was permitted to film the event, including the grand entry.

Abegweit First Nation held its first large powwow in two years on P.E.I. this weekend — and everybody was welcome to join.

Hundreds of people took part in the two-day celebration, which participants also referred to as a Mawi'omi, the Mi'kmaw word for a gathering.

The Abegweit powwow is normally held in Scotchfort every year, but was put on hold during the pandemic. The event is one of the first powwows of the summer season for First Nations in the Atlantic region.

"I look forward to this every year, because it brings all the children and the parents and cousins and aunts, uncles together to be a part of our community, and how we choose to share this with the rest of the public," said elder Doreen Jenkins.

Jingle dress dancers perform during the second day of powwow at Abegweit First Nation Powwow. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

"There are stories and wonderful regalia and all that pulls at the heartstrings, to be able to watch these young children growing and being very active in their culture, and not being ashamed."

Drummers and singers from all parts of the Maritimes participated in the festivities, which is an opportunity for people in the Indigenous community to reconnect with each other.

But members of the Abegweit First Nation emphasized the gathering was for everyone, not just Indigenous people.

Chief Junior Gould of Abegweit First Nation joins the drum group Mi’kmaq Thunder for the singing of the Honour Song. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

"To us is important to educate [non-Indigenous people] of the Mi'kmaw ways," said elder Junior Peter-Paul. "The celebrations that we have here at the Ma'wiomi, when we do things like that, we don't disinclude anybody outside. We welcome them in, you know. It's for everybody."

"I tell everybody who would listen that you're welcome to come out," said Tee Sock, a member of the band. "It's such a step in the right direction, with Truth and Reconciliation and being a part in our community, and [to] allow us to be part of your world as well."

Margo Gillis is a first-time powwow participant. She said she wanted to take part in the celebrations because she wanted to learn more about Mi'kmaw traditions.

Indigenous community members line up outside the tent just before the second day of Abegweit First Nation’s powwow began. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

"After the past couple of years, I think it's really important to involve oneself in reconciliation," she said.

Chief Junior Gould said the band aims to be inclusive while ensuring everybody's views are respected, including those regarding ceremony and the gathering's religious significance.

While photography of the traditional grand entry to a powwow is oftentimes not permitted for cultural reasons, Gould said he encouraged filming because it allows traditions to be passed down more easily to future generations.

Karen Melo with her son, Mavabo Melo. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

"We have a rich cultural history, but it's a verbal history. It's a visual history," he said.

"It has to be recorded in whichever way our children need. It can't be in a classroom or a curriculum. It has to be something that you are part of, an experiential experience. And that's [how] our culture has to be preserved."

Eleven-year-old Taite Wooldridge has been a grass dancer since he was three.

A girl in her dancing regalia during the powwow. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

"[You] get to see all the different kinds of dances. Some you may have never seen before, some that you may know very well," he said.

"It's good because I get to connect with my culture, and be around my family and friends."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Arturo Chang

Reporter

Arturo Chang is a digital reporter with CBC P.E.I. He previously worked for BNN Bloomberg. You can reach him at arturo.chang@cbc.ca.

With files from Jane Robertson

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