Elders Teachings: Tsuu T’ina PowWow

On Saturday July 28th I attended the Tsuu T’ina PowWow. I wasn’t sure what to expect because although I have attended many different Indigenous events and ceremonies I have never attended a PowWow.

We met at a mall to ride out to the Reservation on a big yellow school bus. Pam Beebe and her family were there to greet me and gave me a lunch bag with snacks and water before boarding the bus. The bus itself was a testament to how far from grade school I am; padded seats, a radio, no exposed metal. Nothing at all like the shaking and rattling chariots I was transported in when I was younger, that’s for sure.

Once we arrived on the PowWow grounds a gentleman boarded the bus to hand out wrist bands to any little ones and their parents as a safety precaution just in case a child was separated from their parent. Then it was time to disembark.

On our fairly short walk over to the Beaver Dome (which was a stadium with bleacher type seating) I have to admit I got a bit held up looking at the tipis that had been set up for the participants staying for the weekend. Some of the tipis had paintings and art on the outside that were both beautiful and interesting.

When I arrived in the Beaver Dome Pam was there taking care of things and had set up an area of the bleachers for everyone to sit.

The Beaver Dome was given the name because it was shaped like a beaver, not that I could really tell because it was filled with people and chairs so the shape was hidden. There were large screens in the middle of the Dome to catch the action of the events that were about to start. Two gentlemen were acting as MC’s and their dad jokes were hilariously awesome. Before things kicked off I went to find a coffee and sure enough Tim Hortons came through again. Yes even at a PowWow with extension cords running everywhere inside the booth, I could find a Timmy’s coffee.

Coffee in hand I took my place on the bleachers just in time for the hand drumming to start. Teams of up to 12 or 13 drummed and sang for the crowd and the judges. I’m not sure who won, but  a song would catch my ear so I would pick it as my favorite, but every time a new group started the same thing would happen and I declared them the new winner. Good thing I wasn’t a judge or there would have been a 10 way tie.

After a short break (just long enough to find the most delicious bannock taco with salsa, hold the sour cream, that took me two hours to eat because it was huge) it was time to stand for the Grand Entry.  Grand Entry was just that, grand. It started with the flag bearers and other delegates including the Chief. Once that group had made a complete circle around the performance arena, a new category of representatives was introduced. So next came the Warriors, then the Chicken Dancers and it continued this way until the performance floor was completely full.

Let me try to explain what I was seeing. We have all seen traditional bead work and ceremonial dress but this was amazing. Well beyond anything I have seen before. The colours and the majesty surpassed the imagination. There was a sea of colour and beauty moving in time with amazing drumming and singing before me and it brought to mind the movement of water flowing with the occasional dancer moving against the stream like a salmon swimming upstream. From the simple steps of the older members to the enthusiastic movements of the very young children dressed to match their moms or dads they moved as one.

After the Grand Entry the individual groups danced for the judges and the crowds. Another chance to see the most amazing ceremonial grab and dancing. I have to admit the very small children won my heart. All dressed in their very impressive outfits some needed mom or dad to give them a hand, but they danced their very best dances for the judges, who judged them all winners and awarded every tiny dancer out there.

After many different groups of very impressive performers and songs it was time for the Elders blessing and again we witnessed a river of people as more and more people joined after the Chief, then came his wife, then the original families, and then all of the relatives until the performance area was again filled. Truly a spectacle of beauty. Many families moving in unison and perfect harmony.

All in all, the Tssu T’ina PowWow was an amazing display of culture, spirit and heart. I was welcomed to the community with an open heart and will carry it with me on my travels and I will be dreaming of the bannock taco for many days to come. You have to try one!

Sue Gwynn

Seniors are a significant part of the population affected by poverty, and advocated for on behalf of by VCC.  Seniors play a large role in guiding the work undertaken by VCC through the guidance of Elders on Advisory Committees.  Tsuu T’ina PowWow allows individuals and families opportunities to meet new Elders and re connect with Elders within their family and friend’s circles.

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