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Experience the Essence of a Culture
Hear the haunting, heart-pounding drumbeat, now cue the echo of haunting falsetto singers echoing along the banks of the great river. It’s Pow-Wow time at the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario. Bordered by the towns of Caledonia, Hagersville and Bradt County, the rich cultural heritage of these First Nations people, known as the Haudenosaunee, hosts an extraordinary annual event featuring more than 400 vibrant dancers, singers, dozens of traditional artisans and over 30 unique foods. sellers.
Although it was not my homeland, I had a distinct but unique opportunity to live in and among a very deep-rooted culture rich in tradition and folklore. My mentor was my father-in-law, George Beaver – a respected teacher on the Six Nations reserve and author of First Nations books and stage plays, he once told me that you can’t see the wind, but you can see and hear what it’s doing? like the drum of a heart, rhythm is all around us. The eyes and ears of your heart pick up the waves of sound that surround us to comfort us or call us to action. dance. From the snows of the Arctic, beneath the vast changing landscape of the East to the forests of the Northwest, First Nations musical traditions express life lessons and represent not one entity but various soundscapes from Region to Region and Nation to Nation.
The Champion of Champions Pow Wow is a grand flourish of cultures that includes age-old traditions starting with a series of large concentric circles to define specific areas of respect and etiquette. The core is a central circle, called the Dance Arbour, where dancers perform their specialized dances for the judges. Outside the main circle is another large circle where the Master of Ceremonies, drums and seating area for the dancers and their families. Spectators are welcome to sit in the third circle that encloses the dance arbor.
Considered a sacred event, each Grand Entry is spectacular. Rich in tradition, each Pow-wow begins with a Grand Entry song by the host drum with the Eagle Staff leading the way followed by both Canadian and American flags, distinguished guests, elders, dignitaries and other dignitaries. The dancers, wearing a distinctive ceremonial dress known as “regalia”, enter in a specific order where the younger dancers always follow the older ones. The traditional male dancers enter first. known for their original fuss or no fuss design and high step movements. Then enter the Men’s Fantasy Dancers who have lively acts known for their two hustlers and move with dramatic jumps and spins that are always the biggest crowd pleasers. Next are the Grass Dancers which have long fringes and patterns reminiscent of grass blowing in the wind. The method of their dance movements is more elaborate than traditional dances but less theatrical than fancy dancers. Now women enter the sacred circle starting with the Traditional dancers. Beautiful regalia with an original design with eagle feathers in their hair and eagle fans in their right hand. They are majestic and poised with very precise, highly controlled movements. Next are the Female dancers in brightly colored, long fringed shawls who perform rapid spins and elaborate dance steps. Finally, the Jingle Dress Dancers, who move with light feet and wear dresses with hundreds of small tin cones that make noise as they dance. Originally from the Ojibwa nation, these dancers are considered healers as they heal people of all nations. All the dancers move to the beat of the drum with the younger contestants following behind in this sacred event and once everyone is in the Arbor there is a flag song and then a victory song ending. The opening prayer is offered by a local in his own language before special honors, presentations to Elders and other activities are completed before the competition begins.
Singers & Their Drums
Since ancient times, First Nations people have socialized and practiced shamanistic rituals characterized by the inspired beating of a drum as a voice for the soul, while the dancer is the spirit that moves as a single entity that articulates valuable morals and core beliefs, but the bond lies within the singers. Joining singers through Earth’s familiar vocal songs – wordless, symbolizing strength and clarity as one voice holds the beat for the dancers. The combined voices heard at a Pow-wow have been described as a song similar to the haunting howls of a coyote. Each group of singers has its own talent and unique technique. As modern life has affected the Nations, the drum, a central symbol, epitomizes a rhythm to honor the rhythm of tradition with respect for the land and spirit. It is still apart of community social events and tourist events today. No two drums are the same. Each embracing the culture in which it was created has its own distinctive structure in which both its spirit and life are profoundly influenced by the hands of its creator.
Outside Looking In
Thousands of visitors experience this cultural dance exhibition every year and the atmosphere is truly alive with great energy. At various points during the games, spectators are invited to join the dancers in the arena for a song or two, also called an inter-racial dance. Open to all ages and abilities. A great opportunity to stretch your legs after being mesmerized by the scope and grandeur of each dance competition. Artisans are accessible daily with a variety of unique indigenous crafts, including stone and bone carvings, dreamcatchers, medicine wheels, traditional clothing, original paintings, unique jewelry, and more. Fully embracing the culture will also mean experiencing some culinary anomalies like buffalo or moose burgers and the Indian Taco from one of the many food vendors. As with all things in life, everything has an end. The end of the competition at a Pow Wow means that the awards are presented and the closing ceremonies begin with the retirement of the flags as the contestants dance the flag in a parade approach.
Pow Wow Etiquette
If you plan to attend a Pow Wow, leave your pets at home. service animals are excluded. Bring your camera, but keep in mind that this is a sacred event for the natives and you should not videotape or take photos during the Grand Entry, closing ceremonies, or anything else in their regalia unless you get express permission . Bring extra cash for souvenirs and meals, always have water with you to avoid dehydration in the hot weather and most importantly, no alcohol is allowed.
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