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Yard and Garden
by Isabel Mosseler
The 30th annual Nipissing First Nation Traditional Pow Wow held this past long weekend, September 1st and 2nd, was once again a spectacular expression of vibrant and embracing culture. The pow wow, which takes an entire year to organize, is a signature event for NFN and has become a regional attraction drawing dancers and drummers from First Nations across Ontario as well as the general public.
The amount of work that goes into the event, the bulk of it volunteer, is overwhelming and it unites the NFN community in both collective and individual effort. From the amazing regalia lovingly put together by each of the participants, to the community feast prepared by dozens, to the dance specials, the cultural teachings shared, the skills exchanged, the trading of goods, the craft and food vendors, the groundskeepers and the 8 parking attendants from 22 Wing Command in North Bay, people on and off reserve eagerly line up to help. It’s a proud reflection of this year’s theme, Resilient Past and Confident Future.
This year’s Pow Wow Committee, led by Audrey Commanda along with Dan Commanda, Susan Robson, Priscilla Goulais, Samantha Mianskum, Mindy River and Marie Stevens, raised money all year and cultivated sponsorship from area businesses. They were supported by Glenna Beaucage, manager of the NFN Culture and Heritage Committee and the Language Committee, who is responsible for providing vision and cultural context. The attention to detail brought out the best in everyone, including guests. People from as far away as England, a family who had never been to Canada before, or to a First Nations gathering, said they had never met friendlier people than those of Nipissing First Nation. MC Bob Goulais made everyone feel welcome, sharing history and cultural teachings, injecting his well-known sense of humour into the continuous discourse.
Though no one kept count of exactly how many dancers and drummers and attendants took part, there were participants not only from northern Anishinabe and Cree communities, but also southern Haudenesone (Iroquois) communities. There were dozens of very young children decked out in regalia, to the delight and pride of parents and grandparents.
Some of the highlights of the weekend included the crowning of Brooklyn Sawyer of NFN as this year’s Miss Nipissing, and Sassa Linklater as Miss Junior Nipissing. The pageant, held on August 31, was organized by Samantha Mianskum and her mother Tracey Couchie, and the judging was largely based on the young ladies’ community involvement. Glenna Beaucage said, “It’s not focussed on physical beauty, although they are beautiful. It has to do with how they give to their community, their goals and work they do. Also on how they carry themselves in their dance and care for their regalia.”